The Mensch’s team is rolling up their sleeves for another pop-up season. While construction of their brick-and-mortar is underway for its Spring 2024 opening, Pono Ono and Picnic owner Jack DeMar and his friends-turned-business partners, Eric Kogan and Kiki Eliopoulos, have answered the call for Mensch’s to return to Evanston this fall.

“I think we're coming in this with a full head of steam, ready to sell a bunch of bagels,” Kogan said. “Last time around, we didn't know what to expect, and I think our concerns were certainly squashed. You guys blew our expectations out of the water, so we're ready to do the same thing if not more.”

Over the ten weekends the pop-up ran last spring, Northwestern students and Evanston residents alike queued up down Chicago Avenue to get their weekly bagel fix, leading to a total of 5,000 bagels sold.

“When Mensch’s opened last spring, I remember standing in a line down the block on their opening day hoping that the wait would be worth it. It definitely was, and I went back every single weekend,” Northwestern student Anna Miller said. “My boyfriend and I would go and always split two different flavors because we couldn’t pick just one. I’m seriously counting down the days for them to reopen soon! Great people, great environment, and really great bagels.”

While their brick-and-mortar will feature a full Jewish deli with wait service, DeMar called the pop-up a “family affair,” with just five consistent staff members, DeMar, Kogan, Eliopoulos, one Northwestern student, and one Picnic employee. DeMar said everyone is “pulling a lot of extra hours,” but the work pays off.

“It's a lot of onions to dice, a lot of herbs to pick, lemons to cut, oranges to juice, but it’s rewarding,” DeMar said. “We get there early, we have some coffee together, we have a bagel together and then we get into it.”

Maya Benjamin

On opening weekend, college students, elderly couples, families and even dogs gathered to grab their breakfast. The joyful music playing inside the store could be heard from the sidewalk, and, despite the hustle and bustle behind the counter, each bagel was served with a smile.

“It was validating to see that last spring’s pop-up was not a fluke!” Kogan said. “The Evanston community showed up hungry and thrilled about the upcoming brick-and-mortar location.“

Now open an hour earlier, this season’s pop-up features the same core menu with a change in the baked goods. Eliopoulos, owner of Kiki Bakes Pie, said she thought this was the “perfect opportunity to test out desserts” for the permanent location. Instead of chocolate babka, Mensch’s will feature a coffee cake Danish and a lemon cookie. Eliopoulos also said she plans to incorporate fall produce in upcoming desserts: “People were excited to see coffee cake Danish on the menu as well as the lemon cookie. At the same time, I did have people asking where the Babka was!”

Here To Stay

Mensch’s permanent location will take the place previously occupied by Golden Olympic and join DeMar’s two other restaurants on Chicago Avenue. Golden Olympic, which served Evanston residents since the 1960s, left a legacy that Mensch’s hopes to continue, Kogan said.

“They were an Evanston staple as deli/diner for a long, long time, so we have big shoes to fill, but it's cool that we can sort of give them an homage to what they were serving for so long for the community.”

Maya Benjamin

The 3,000-square-foot space will have a total of 100 seats and offer lunch and breakfast service seven days a week.

DeMar said it’s “very much our intention” to offer late-night food on Friday and Saturday nights, but they want to get up and running and see if that is something they can handle before they make an announcement.

Former Northwestern student Kate Drum who transferred to the University of Pennsylvania said she misses Mensch’s, which had become one of the highlights of her Northwestern experience.

“Mensch’s became more than a breakfast place for me and my friends," she said. "Eating there became a tradition. Truly one of my favorite activities at Northwestern was grabbing a bagel with my friends, and it is something that I have sincerely missed since leaving campus.”

Want to share Mensch’s with friends? They just opened up a catering menu for parties of ten and over. Whether just for you or a larger group, don’t miss out on Mensch’s pop-up every Saturday and Sunday until October 29.

Maya Benjamin

All photos courtesy of Jack DeMar.