Curt’s Café: Eating Well, Doing What’s Right

Susan Trieschmann doesn’t want to be the focus of this article; she wants the mission and the message of Curt’s Café put first.

But it’s impossible to tell you about the cafe without sharing some of Susan’s story, because without her there would be nothing to share. Don’t worry… I’ll get to the food a little later.

Déjà vu

As fate would have it, Susan has been in this location before. She and her sister opened the original Food for Thought Catering in this exact spot on Evanston’s Central Street, eventually moving it to a larger location in Lincolnwood. After 25 years, they sold the business.

But Susan’s heart has always remained in Evanston, where she and her husband raised their kids, both ETHS grads. She became active with Restorative Justice Evanston, which “recognizes the purposes of misbehavior, addresses the needs of those who carried the harm and works to heal everyone involved.” Working with young adults to resolve their conflicts and break the cycle of violence was transformative for her, and the impetus for her new project.And so the idea for Curt’s Café was born.

Helping At-Risk Youth

Now you can get your morning coffee drinks and pastries, or your lunch salads and sandwiches, in a welcoming environment. But they’re serving up more than food – they’re providing at-risk Evanston youth, ages 15-24, with “hope and opportunity.” They’re learning valuable job and life skills by training in the food service industry.

“I love our industry. I love food. I’m passionate about music, our youth and our community. I’m just hoping that I can pass that on to these kids,” shares Susan. And you can feel her passion when she speaks about the young adults that she’s training, not just for restaurant work, but also for life.

In addition to the training, they are also tutored in subjects like computer (and cash register) literacy and food history. They are paid a stipend for their work, and learn from the experience of showing up on time to work every day and interacting with the customers.

The Community Comes Together

Part of the beauty of the Curt’s Café story is how the community has responded to this non-profit labor of love: with open arms. Generous donations of furniture and kitchen equipment (including the fancy coffee machine from Julius Meinl and all the café chairs from Portifiro at That Little Mexican Café have poured in from industry friends who believe in Susan’s vision.

There’s also a “community room” lined with comfy living room furniture that’s available for book groups, poetry readings, and neighborhood meetings. Live music will often be featured.

And the food? The coffee beans are brought in from Uncommon Ground in Saugatuck, Michigan; the breakfast pastries are from award-winning local bakery Bennison’s. At lunch, you’ll find interesting sandwiches, fresh soups (always at least one vegetarian option), and sharing snacks like hummus and crudite with dips.

A second location is in the works in South Evanston, near Dodge and Dempster, just a few blocks from ETHS.

I love the idea of giving back by eating out. It combines my two favorite activities! Curt’s Café is a great way to help others, and still grab coffee and a bagel with friends. So check it out soon… and be sure to introduce yourself to Susan. She’s got something to say.

Curt’s Café
2922 Central St.