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North Market’s Little Eater opens first sit-down restaurant

Little Eater, a vegetarian eatery originally based in downtown’s North Market, opened its first stand-alone restaurant, located on North High Street in Clintonville, Oct. 19.

Cara Mangini, founder and head chef of Little Eater, said the Clintonville location offers the same on-the-go experience offered at the North Market location, but also adds a new dine-in option in a space designed to celebrate the food.

The new location’s menu is slightly larger and will continue to expand with the new year, she said.

With the opening of a restaurant, Mangini said Little Eater’s mission — “to honor the work of our farmers and support the health of our community” — remains the same and will continue to be a core value at both locations.

Little Eater has recently opened a sit-down restaurant in Clintonville. | Credit: Rachel Joy Barehl.

“Our guests can expect to experience the seasons and ultimately connect to where their food is from,” Mangini said.

Grace Curran, a manager at Little Eater, said the new location was opened in three phases: a special opening for friends and friendly, a “soft” opening for Little Eater regulars and, lastly, a grand opening to the public. Curran said their business and feedback has been great so far and with each day of their grand opening weekend, the restaurant brought in more and more people.

“The most exciting was probably friends and family because it was literally the first time anyone had come through the line or tried some of the new menu items,” Curran said. “It’s really exciting.”

For those who don’t follow a plant-based diet, Mangini said it’s important to her and her team that everyone feels welcome at Little Eater. She said  in order to be all-inclusive it’s important that the eatery’s style of food doesn’t have labels in order to feel approachable and delicious to everyone.

“When people think of our food they think about flavor and abundance, and not about anything missing from the plate, but everything that is on the plate,” Mangini said.

The “produce-inspired” restaurant partners with local farms year round to ensure fresh produce and dishes that are always in season.

“Our farm partners are our silent partners and team members,” Mangini said. “They make what we do possible. Since I started the business, I started finding people who I felt like were growing ingredients that I wanted to work with that were farming responsibly, that were just really dedicated, hard-working, incredible farmers that I wanted to work with.”

Thinking ahead, Mangini said now is the time to start reaching out to local farmers for seasonal produce for winter dishes. The types of local produce guests can expect to see on the winter menu will include beets, rutabaga, butternut squash, kohlrabi, apples, mushrooms and celery root, she said.

Mangini said guests can look forward to trying dishes like kohlrabi strata, which will feature spinach and a country-jack cheese. Other winter entrees will include a butternut squash and local greens dish paired with quinoa and Dijon dressing, as well as a roasted mushroom salad.

She also said she’d known they wanted to expand and create a space where people can gather and honor the work of local farmers for a long time.

Opening a stand-alone location had been a dream of hers since she founded the Little Eater at the North Market five years ago. Ithad been an ongoing project for the last year and a half, with the original location serving as a testing-ground, she said.  

Mangini said the Little Eater team is dedicated to helping people feel more comfortable preparing vegetables at home, and if guests are looking to recreate some of Little Eater’s dishes, a few of the recipes can be found in her cookbook, “The Vegetable Butcher.”

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