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Restaurateur Interview Series: Karyn’s Fresh Corner

Karyn’s Fresh Corner
1901 N Halsted
Chicago Illinois 60614

Owner: Karyn Calabrese

Is this your first restaurant? First restaurant but second location.

What made you decide to open a vegetarian/vegan restaurant?

I started being a vegetarian in my 20’s, that was over 40 years ago and there was not any place to eat, especially when I started moving into a completely plant based diet. I wanted to be able to make it easy for people to eat healthy and I love to feel people so it seemed like the natural albeit difficult thing for me to do.

What has been your greatest professional success and your biggest setback?

My greatest professional success is that I have the longest standing raw foods restaurant in the country. My biggest setback has been negativity in general. People trying to put this lifestyle down simply because they don’t understand it. I have had to jump many hoops and hurdles in order to not only stay open but continue to grow. People do not really understand all the hard work and dedication that goes into making this type of business work and be successful.

What’s your favorite dish on the menu?

My wild rice is my favorite dish.

What’s the most popular appetizer on the menu? Stuffed Sliders
Most popular entrée? Portobello Napoleon
Most popular dessert? Tiramisu

How often do you change your menu items? Do you have daily or weekly specials? How do you choose those specials?

I love coming up with new recipes so I change my menu seasonally.

Do you have gluten-free, soy-free, and sugar-free options on your menu? Yes we do, we cater to all.

What are a few of those?
Gluten-free: Sliders, Dim Sum, hummus, our salads, Empanadas, Pastas, Ravioli and many more.

Soy-free: 80% of our menu is soy free. We only use braggs on some items.

Sugar-free: We don’t use any refined sugar in our products, we do use agave and some organic local honey as a natural sweetener in some of our products.

Do you use eco-friendly packaging? What else do you do to reduce your environmental impact?
Yes we do use eco-friendly packaging, we offer discounts to people who ride their bikes, we compost whenever we can, nothing in a raw kitchen is ever wasted.

If you could eat at any vegan restaurant in the world where would it be?

Mannain in London.

Do you have any advice for those wanting to start a vegetarian/vegan restaurant?

Yes, go work in someone else’s kitchen for at least a year. Learn the ins and outs of running a restaurant and get familiar with all the work that it entails. Also find a way to educate your customers.

Karyn, 65, was named “Raw Foodist of the Year” and lives the full, lively life she envisioned giving herself. She believes it is not enough to simply eat live foods but to cleanse the body of the strong, negative, anti-life foods still in the body. Today, Karyn teaches detoxification classes through the year to give these lessons to others. To facilitate this process of cleansing, she opened a holistic therapy center, Karyn’s Inner Beauty Center. She is working on a book that gives the voice to the positive experiences of the people she has helped along their own journeys.

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