Oak Parkers have been doing everything in their power to help local restaurants survive the long COVID winter and now a fundraising event is bringing the “ultimate take-out bag experience” to hungry locals. Housing Forward is partnering with Take Out 25 Oak Park, six restaurants and three bakeries to present Taste the Town on Feb. 23. 

“Housing Forward’s mission focuses on homelessness and addresses food insecurity,” said Ravi Parakkat, Take Out 25 creator and current candidate for village trustee. “Combining Take Out 25 with their mission while supporting local restaurants felt like a natural fit. I hope this forms the basis for similar partnerships in the future.”

Building on the natural momentum restaurants experience following Valentine’s Day, Taste the Town features a preset entrée menu made up of a collection of dishes from Billy Bricks, Kettlestrings Tavern, Mora Asian Kitchen, Poke Burrito, Tre Sorelle and Wild Onion Tied House. A dessert bag, featuring an array of sweets from Kalamata Kitchen, The Happy Apple and Sugar Fixe Patisserie, can be added to any entrée order or purchased separately. Each takeout bag, $100 for entrees and $35 for desserts, will feed a family of four. 

Taste the Town is a ticketed event with the funds raised going directly to Housing Forward. The nonprofit will then share proceeds with participating restaurants. Ninety dollars of each take out bag will be divided among the six participating restaurants with $10 going to Housing Forward. Thirty dollars of each $35 dessert bag will go back to the bakeries while Housing Forward retains $5. Take out bag quantities are limited and will be offered on a first come first serve basis. The event is designed to sell out with 300 savory slots and 200 dessert slots available.

All add-on donations above the cost of the bags will go directly to Housing Forward. The organization has committed to spending its portion of the funds to buy food from local restaurants to feed their clients — effectively doubling the impact of ticket purchases and donations within the community. Parakkat says organizers hope to raise an additional $2,000 for Housing Forward.

“Time and time again Oak Parkers find imaginative ways to support one another and Takeout 25 is an example of this,” said Lynda Schueler, executive director of Housing Forward. “Housing Forward is thrilled to be a part of this community-wide event to support area restaurants while helping to feed those who are in our care.” 

Oak Park resident Allison Cummins is the “quarterback of this event” according to Parakkat. Cummins, a project manager, is overseeing all the details of the multifaceted one-stop progressive dinner. The event has been bolstered further by Kelly Cunneen Moran, an enthusiastic local, who donated $500 from her federal stimulus check to offset the cost of food packaging for Taste the Town while Susie Goldschmidt and Byline Bank stepped in with $900 to offset the cost of event-specific insurance riders for participating restaurants and bakeries.

“Being a small business owner myself, I know how challenging the last 10 months have been,” said  Cummins, Taste the Town organizer. “One positive thing this pandemic has done is highlight what a fantastic community we have here in Oak Park. Every day I see neighbors promoting and championing our small businesses. It makes me hopeful because I know we can get through this together.”

Individuals purchasing meals will select between vegetarian and non-vegetarian preset menus and select a Feb. 23 time slot between 5 and 8 p.m. for drive through pick up at The Nineteenth Century Club on Forest Avenue.   Taste the Town tickets are on sale now and will be available through Feb. 18 or until sold out.

What’s on the Taste the Town menu?

Tre Sorelle

Lasagna bolognese with a parmesan bechamel

Roasted vegetable lasagna (V)

Mora Asian Kitchen

Chicken green curry with white rice (GF)

Tofu green curry with white rice (V)(GF)

Poke Burrito

Jimmy’s creation bowl with white rice 

Veggie mix bowl with white rice (V)

Wild Onion Tied House

Loaded Mac & Cheese with pulled pork

Mac & Cheese (V)

Billy Bricks

Canapes sampler platter

Vegetarian canapes sampler platter (V)

Kettlestrings Tavern

BBQ chicken sliders with creamy coleslaw

Brussels sprouts and avocado salad (V)

Sugar Fixe Patisserie

French macarons

The Happy Apple

7-inch Apple Crumble Pie

Kalamata Kitchen

Baklava

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