SpoonFest, Northwestern’s yearly culinary festival, is coming back to campus this Friday for its ninth year. The event showcases Evanston’s diverse culinary scene, featuring everything from Evanston’s more well-established restaurants to small food businesses and up-and-coming eateries. With over 15 different vendors in attendance this year, SpoonFest is the perfect opportunity to get a sense of what the city offers while basking in the warm weather. Who knows? You might even find your new favorite dining spot.

Co-founded in 2012 by Mackenzie Barth and Sarah Adler with the hopes of creating a food magazine, Northwestern’s chapter of Spoon University (Spoon) was the first in the nation. When they moved into their first college apartments, the founders didn’t have a clue about how to cook for themselves. Through Spoon, they developed an outlet where fellow college students could share their knowledge and skills about cooking.

“Within two years, [the club] absolutely blew up and they started launching chapters at other nearby schools,” current co-president and Weinberg fourth-year Steph Shields said.

After graduating, Barth and Adler dedicated themselves full-time to Spoon, spreading it to as many universities across the nation as possible. Today, there are over 100 college chapters nationwide, expanding to the nation’s biggest food hubs like Los Angeles and New York. By offering a variety of food-related content oriented to college students, like restaurant reviews or recipes, Spoon opens the door to students’ culinary exploration.

Aside from being the first chapter, Spoon at Northwestern is also the only chapter with a print magazine, which is published twice a year. The first edition is released in either the fall or winter and the second in spring. Through their involvement in the magazine, club members can delve deeper into their journalistic, editing and digital design skills through a culinary lens.

Photo courtesy of Lauren Paige Goldstein

“It takes dozens and dozens of people– there are so many teams that come together and create this magazine, and it’s honestly so incredible,” Shields said. “The professionalism and the talent that’s showcased through these magazines every quarter is honestly astonishing.”

Current co-president and Medill fourth-year Stephanie Markowitz said that the magazine helps draw in numerous new members each year at the club fair. She added that Spoon’s focus on food attracts writers since it’s a very accessible subject they can relate to.  

“They see these colorful, beautiful magazines that don’t look like they’ve been made by college students, and they’re like, ‘What is this?’” Markowitz said.

SpoonFest perfectly aligns with the publication of the magazine’s second edition, meaning Spoon members get to celebrate their hard work with as many people – and vendors – as possible. Whether that’s working on the magazine, publishing online articles, or expanding the club’s social media presence, SpoonFest truly is a testament to the dedication everyone has put to Spoon and how committed they are to making food something exciting for Northwestern students.

Photo courtesy of Lauren Paige Goldstein

For this year’s SpoonFest, Markowitz said she got a lot of inspiration from New York City’s Smorgasburg. When she went, she noticed there weren’t any major brand or chain names; it was specifically oriented towards highlighting small businesses.

“I feel like that translates very well to Evanston because I feel like there’s a vast majority of local businesses and small businesses,” she said. “We’re just trying to help them out and for students to recognize their names and want to go there on their own.”

Some of this year’s vendors include Evanston staples like Soul & Smoke, a locale that has participated in the last few SpoonFests with their iconic food truck. CEO Heather Bublick said it was their love of sharing the comfort of barbecue with students that kept them coming back year after year.

Photo courtesy of Soul & Smoke

“They come from all over the country and from different countries, so it's great to give people a taste of what barbecue is to us,” Bublick said. “We give people the barbecue experience with our salads, sides and tastes, and it’s nice to see people try out food for the first time.”

Soul & Smoke is very active at Northwestern, having been present during football games, move-in day and Dillo Day. Each of these events showcases its iconic food truck menu, including delicious barbecue staples like brisket sandwiches, pulled pork sandwiches, mac and cheese, road chips and cornbread.

Gotta B Crepes, a staple of Evanston’s farmers' market, is another vendor this year. Co-owners Ryan and Kathia Jones started making crêpes in 2005 at the Magic Pan restaurant and immediately fell in love with it. Once they realized their passion for crêpe making, they decided to open their own place in 2010. Cooking for neighbors and participating in farmers' markets all around the Chicago area, they quickly gained a following that has continually increased since.

Photo courtesy of Gotta B Crepes

“We love making crêpes since they’re like a blank canvas, allowing us to use as many flavor combinations and ingredients as possible,” Ryan said. “It’s such a versatile way to highlight seasonal tastes in a way everyone will enjoy, because who doesn’t love crêpes!”

Be sure to check out all the mouth-watering locales that’ll be present in the Arts Circle this Friday! Come with an empty stomach, and get ready to fall in love with Evanston’s food scene.