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Inspiration Kitchens: More Than Just a Local Eatery

Having a sit down restaurant that’s good to your wallet and taste-buds is an experience our minds won’t let us forget.  As social creatures of habit we want to share those cozy ‘benefits’ with others, inviting our friends and acquaintances to venture out and partake in the sense of momentary enjoyment that we’ve had.  With limited dining options, fast food notwithstanding, Garfield Park residents overwhelmingly identified ‘sit down restaurants’ as a retail category where more local options were needed. The overall results of which were published in a 2007 neighborhood commercial study.  Today, Inspiration Corporation, the brains behind ‘Café Too’ (4715 N Sheridan Rd.), have committed to expanding their dining concept into the Garfield Park community.  More than just a restaurant, they represent the cutting edge in social enterprises with a mission that goes beyond what their menu has to offer.

How do they do it?  Inspiration Corporation provides sites for employment training and transitional jobs for homeless and low-income men and women.  Since 2001, 370 graduates have left Café Too with the culinary skills and experience they need to succeed in the food industry.  The graduates and trainees prepare the everyday dishes and catering options that are provided at Café Too and this award-winning model will be replicated at ‘Inspiration Kitchens’, coming to 3504 W Lake St.   Job readiness and vocational training will be provided to 125 people, and at current rates, at least 50 of those students will go on to enter the workforce within a year of finishing the program.     

At a recent groundbreaking event, Executive Director and CEO of Inspiration Corporation, John Pfieffer told a crowd of supporters, “we are very excited about expanding our social enterprise model to the East Garfield Park Area.  After meeting with many key stake holders in the community, we were encouraged that so many people embraced our desire to develop a job training program and a family friendly restaurant in a much deserved area. The new Inspiration Kitchen’s Garfield Park will help people who are affected by homelessness and poverty to improve their lives and increase self-sufficiency through the provision of social services and employment training.”

Inspiration Kitchens seeks to serve will serve 7,000 meals in its first year of operation.  Half of these meals will be affordably priced to attract community members who don’t have many options for great dining in this area.  The other half will be provided for free through community partners such as schools, religious congregations and other nonprofit organizations. 

With construction underway, the restaurant will be full service, offering lunch and dinner options to patrons and local businesses.    This LEED certified space will also be able to accommodate groups or private parties for up to 60 people as well as catering for off-site events.

Visitors to the Conservatory are sure to enjoy the convenience of being able to walk just a block east to enjoy the experience.  They will undoubtedly be tempted by a creative healthy meal selection.  “The program will showcase the talents of our trainees by providing the local community and destination diners with healthy, affordable and delicious ethnically inspired cuisine.  Our 80 seat restaurant will feature menu items ranging from upscale southern cuisine to favorites from the Caribbean, which will provide enough variety to please a wide range of tastes”, said Eric Merideth, General Manager.

Inspiration Kitchens, the newest member of the Garfield Park Business Network, has already begun making inroads with local schools, day care centers and community institutions regarding their mission and fantastic menu.  Their linkages with the community are sure to deepen.  More than just a sit-down restaurant, their commitment to job readiness, healthy foods and land investment in Garfield Park make them standout as a unique catalyst for economic development.  We look forward to seeing you at 3504 W Lake come next spring!

Keywords: Inspiration Kitchens, Restaurant East Garfield Park, social enterprise

Posted in Garfield Park Retail and Real Estate Initiative