As Amy Morton talks about her father, Arnie (proprietor of the famed Morton’s Steakhouse), she gets a bit choked up. “My father and I were extremely similar,” she says, looking off into the distance at her new Evanston restaurant and “social house” Found. “This place is not so different from my family … it’s just me.”
Indeed everything about Found screams Amy, from its sustainable practice of found decoration (think Chicago Courthouse benches and Pump Room mirrors) to a social mission of hiring the homeless and private dining menus named for her daughters Ruby, Abra and Taluhla. Morton describes the comfy quarters housed in the old Gio Restaurant as a Gertrude Stein salon in 1920s Paris meets Jack Kerouac “in my living room.” And from the bar to the dining room to the library area filled with her personal book collection, the space couldn’t be more inviting.
ILM+E: What does “Found” signify?
AM: I feel like this place found me. I’ve been working on this project for four years, but it was only a year ago that I was serious about Evanston for its location. It suddenly hit me, I live here; this is my community. In general, life is about discovery. We find our friends, our food, ourselves. And here it’s about finding a new space, a great local wine, even a new book in the library.
ILM+E: Tell us more about Found’s social mission.
AM: When I was head of [Blue Room] in Old Town, I didn’t feel like I was making a difference. I wanted to support my community in this new venture, so I am working with the Inspiration Café and Connections for the Homeless to hire individuals. To get a job out of homelessness, to build the confidence to prove yourself, has to be the hardest thing one can face, so I want to give them a fair shot. We are also running a First Mondays program when we will offer the restaurant at cost to nonprofits.
ILM+E: What are some menu features?
AM: We have a focus on grains and veggies, overall, to fit in with the new American palette. The menu is eclectic American cuisine and will feature a selection of boards, small plates, bar nibbles, knife and fork sandwiches and a series of main courses. Our cocktails will be big on [herb, veggie and fruit-based] juicing.
ILM+E: What does Found offer to groups?
AM: We have a fully private dining room ready for groups from 10 to 100 people. The space is completely flexible and can accommodate traditional plated dinners, our signature family style courses or a cocktail party. We will personally sit down with every planner and customize the space and menu to meet their needs.