Onion Garden Offers : Healthy Take on Takeout
Feb 26, 2018 10:00AM
● By Carrie Jackson
The Onion Garden, headquartered in Highland Park, is a quick service takeout eatery and catering business that is changing the way consumers eat, one meal at a time. Started in 2017 by chef Tim Carden, the restaurant focuses on quick, fresh, healthy meals and snacks that customers can grab on the go. “We combine classic and modern food preparation techniques to provide an exceptional quick service dining experience. Our kitchen uses the highest-quality organic ingredients, sources them locally and promotes sustainability and integrity,” says Carden.
Almost everything at Onion Garden is made on-site, from organic ingredients wherever possible. “We offer breakfast all day, salads, wraps, and use nutrient-dense foods like the ‘supergrain’ freekah, farro, steel cut oats, bone broth and chia seeds. The menu is designed to be nutritious and delicious, but also promote satiation. After a meal, customers feel energized and satisfied,” says Carden.
Diners can pick up made-to-order meals at the Highland Park take-out location, which serves all sandwiches on sprouted grain bread and focuses ingredients on high-fiber and macrobiotic ingredients with high-protein options. Fresh entrées include a black bean burger with avocado, sweet potato oat bran grits, a super greens salad with edamame and sunflower seeds, and assorted smoothies with fresh ingredients like flax seeds, ginger, blueberries and maca powder. The kids menu, inspired by Carden’s own children, offers a refined take on traditional grilled cheese by making it on sprouted wheat bread with a side of green beans.
Onion Garden hosts private events like cooking classes, full-service catering for parties, dinners, and luncheons, as well as delivering meals tailored to each customer’s dietary needs and preferences. Carden, who has a bachelor’s degree in nutrition and dietetics, focuses on nutritionally sound meals that are personalized for any palate.
“People are realizing that they can use food as medicine, and what you eat can help with autoimmune diseases and other chronic conditions. I sit down with each client to assess what they want and what they need,” says Carden. “We can accommodate any food allergies, restrictions or preferences, including gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian and vegan diets, but we also serve grass-fed beef and sustainably sourced fish.” Past events include private wood-burning oven pizza dinners, Chicago-style hot dog-themed parties, elegant weddings and backyard barbeques.
Onion Garden’s client-focused approach and commitment to community is part of what sets them apart from others in the food service industry. They partner with and provide meals for local businesses, such as Pulse Fitness (PulseHP.com), in Highland Park, and The Bread and Buddha Kitchen (TheBreadAndBuddhaKitchen.com), in Glencoe, and get the majority of their clients through word of mouth. “Many of our customers in the restaurant are regulars who come in three or four times a week. They know that we will modify anything on the menu for them, even cooking with a different kind of oil or omitting an ingredient,” says Carden. Their meal delivery customers choose exactly what they want from an expansive list of options and are not confined to set menus or courses.
Carden, who is from Chicago and studied at Kendall College and Dominican University, has been in the hospitality industry for most of his life. “I started working with my uncle at the Taste of Chicago and other events when I was a teenager as a way to make money over the summer. Soon I discovered that I really enjoyed the excitement of the restaurant industry and I was actually quite good at cooking,” he recalls.
Carden went on to immerse himself in global cuisine and spent time in numerous kitchens and competitions in France, Spain, Ireland and Sweden, as well as all over the U.S. “The food we offer at Onion Garden reflects the flavor, culture and life of a global palate, including a vegetarian French lentil soup, green curry coconut Thai halibut, shredded duck, and kimchi lettuce wraps,” he says.
Onion Garden sources their food from local farms whenever possible. “Not only does the food taste better when it’s fresher, buying local also reduces the amount of travel time and transportation costs, which does keeps the bottom line lower for our customers, but also helps protect the environment. We work with food vendors who share our passion and dedication to quality, ethics and responsibility. Being an independent business with close community ties, we try to support the local economy as much as possible,” says Carden.