Take Out 25 Oak Park, the online community dedicated to supporting local restaurants through the pandemic, hosted its second Taste the Town event on April 22. The event raised $31,000 for The Day Nursery and nine Oak Park restaurants and bakeries. 

When Cari Christoff, Day Nursery executive director, stopped by to pick up her bag at The Nineteenth Century Club, 178 Forest Ave., she paused to offer her help, but the well-organized drive-thru pick-up process was already flowing smoothly. While there were plenty of new faces among the people participating in the food-focused fundraiser, she saw Day Nursery parents, board members and donors pick up their Taste the Town bags.

“It was wonderful to see so many familiar faces supporting the Day Nursery in a new way,” said Christoff. “We have been a staple in the community for more than a century and it was nice to feel like we are part of the broader community.” The Day Nursery is at 1139 Randolph, at the intersection with Maple Avenue.

Funds raised through ticket sales were dispersed through a predetermined formula. The Day Nursery earned $9,644 through a portion of sales and direct donations. Amerikas, Carnivore, the Little Gem Café, Surf’s Up, and Trattoria 225 provided entrees for the bag and each received $3,015, while One Lake Brewing, Rare Bird Preserves, and Well’s Street Popcorn provided desserts and earned $1,682 each.

Every dollar from the event went toward helping local restaurants survive as well as feeding the children enrolled in the Day Nursery’s early childhood education program. Funds raised for the Day Nursery cover 13% of their annual food budget and Christoff has committed to spend the money raised through Taste the Town at local establishments including Carnival, Sugar Beet, The Daly Bagel and Carnivore.

According to Allison Cummins, event organizer, experience, subtle tweaks and a valued partnership with Austin Schramer, licensed environmental health practitioner with the Oak Park Health Department, made the second event run more smoothly than the first. 

“Austin was super eager to answer any question I had and really helped to ensure the success of the second Taste the Town event,” said Cummins. “Restaurant owners were also ready and willing to pitch in and help.”

Brad Knaub, co-owner of Carnivore Oak Park, dropped off his much-lauded lamb and lentil soup and stayed behind to help check food temperatures and organize the refrigerated truck properly. Bill Quick, owner of Trattoria 225, pitched in to help package the dessert bags ahead of pick up.

“All of the extra effort shows the camaraderie between restaurants and their investment in the community and events like Taste the Town,” said Cummins. “This event is made up of a group of people coming together to make Oak Park the best place to live.”

Ravi Parakkat, Take Out 25 founder and Oak Park village trustee-elect, was thrilled with the success of the second Taste the Town event and hopes to replicate the event in the future.

“I am already looking ahead to the next event and hope we can host them two-to-four times a year,” said Parakkat. “They will always be thematic, and I would like to focus the next one on a cause related to sustainability.”

In the spirit of environmental responsibility, Parakkat announced that participants interested in returning their Taste the Town bags for re-use at future events can do so at Sugar Cup Trading, 110 N. Marion St. Sugar Cup sponsored Taste the Town 2 and agreed to keep a receptacle for the bags on site for the next week.

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