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Popular Rogers Park Restaurant ‘The Growling Rabbit’ Makes Move To Bigger Edgewater Space

rabbit-1 What’s missing from The Growling Rabbit, Chicago Tribune brunch reviewer Ina Pinkney asked? Absolutely nothing, she wrote in her Aug. 13, 2015, review. In fact, try the Carnitas Bombwich.

But if you’re going to make good food — and if positive reviews require you to make even more of it — it helps to have the space to do it in. That’s why The Growling Rabbit owner Laura Soncrant has decided to move her popular brunch spot from its current location at 6981 N. Sheridan Road in Rogers Park, to the former St. Andrew’s Inn and its next-door old business office in Edgewater.

“The fact that when we are busy — if it takes 45 minutes or a half-hour to get food once you’ve ordered, and (customers) see that the kitchen is backed up, that it’s standing room only … most people are very happy for us” that we plan to move into a bigger location, Soncrant said on Friday.

These issues, some in the restaurant business would say, are good problems to have. That’s what brings patrons into The Growling Rabbit from Gurnee, Ill., and from the Loop. It’s what draws hungry customers from Ridge Avenue in Evanston, and from Andersonville. In other words, what started as a neighborhood restaurant has now grown into a deliberate meeting spot for others outside the area.

By moving to 5938-40 N. Broadway in Edgewater, Soncrant will be able to add 60 additional seats (she currently only has room for 40 seats) for a total of 100 seats in a new space with a different layout that will now have 3,000 square feet, instead of her restaurant’s current 2,000 square feet. She will be able to prepare food in a full kitchen, instead of having to rely on a six-burner stove, and she will also be able to serve drinks from the former tavern’s bar. Her current location does not have a bar or the room for her to build one.

However, in a Facebook post on Saturday, Soncrant acknowledged crime has been an issue in Rogers Park, and while that wasn’t her reason for deciding to move her business to Edgewater, a burglary at the restaurant on Saturday morning was “the breaking point.”

“I will not share details about today’s burglary, but it hit very close to home and it felt very personal,” she wrote on Jan. 9. “It takes a village for change and it takes time for change to happen. I have given this everything I have and then some in this (location) and today I was assured I made the right choice to take a bow and move this act to a new stage.”

Her current lease in Rogers Park ends at the end of July, and Soncrant is aiming to open her new location, owned by United Investors Inc., in June. She has renovation plans, and she will need to obtain permits for food and liquor. So some things are too far in the distance to know about for certain. But she does know that she will be adding pancakes, burgers and a full-service bar. She plans to keep what she has on the current menu and to add a few older items that were, for whatever reason, removed.

Not only that, but The Growling Rabbit will change from a brunch spot to a brunch/pub restaurant, which means its breakfast menu will continue all day. Currently, the restaurant is open from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays. Soncrant said she expects the new location’s hours to be from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., with the bar open until midnight. But these are only the tentative plans, she added.

In any case, Soncrant has certainly seen success in the not-quite-five years since she opened her Rogers Park location. In fact, for a woman who started baking cookies out of a commercial kitchen on the anniversary of what would have been her father’s 59th birthday, it seems Soncrant is likely used to her business plans coming together bit by bit, like incremental ingredients put together to create a large recipe.

Her father, a physicist who didn’t spend much time baking, died of heart disease, she said. But he loved her peanut butter cookies. That’s why she started making cookies, in fact. “That was his favorite,” she said, adding that her father taught her a lot about life, people and business. “I started the business to keep my Dad around in my heart.”

After starting her business in the commercial kitchen, Soncrant then began selling her cookies at the Glenwood Sunday Market, a farmer’s market in Rogers Park. She saw another opportunity to grow with the Rogers Park location, “and we decided to open up our own storefront and added the cafe. And it has just slowly grown from there.”

Listening closely, you might wonder: We? Who else has helped make The Growling Rabbit a success?

Soncrant paused. She’s the sole owner, the decision maker. But “without my staff, without my husband, without the support of my family and … all of that, this wouldn’t happen. It’s a team effort around me.”

She had help from the business and political community in setting up her business in Rogers Park, and she’s also been welcomed by the business and political community in Edgewater, too. The Edgewater Chamber of Commerce and 48th Ward Ald. Harry Osterman have both reached out to her and have been supportive, she said.

The Growling Rabbit’s planned moved to Broadway isn’t just a plus for Edgewater patrons who might have to travel a bit less for a Carnitas Bombwich. The move is also likely to mean more jobs, too, since Soncrant will be adding multiple work shifts. While exact numbers are unavailable at this point, she expects her staff to double from about 15 people to about 30 people, more or less.

“I think the biggest thing is we are just looking to expand what we are doing,” Soncrant said. This means having the ability to shorten wait times and offer more people the ability to come in and enjoy what’s on the menu. She also said she’d like to be able to make her new location available for private rentals, such as children’s birthday parties.

“We can’t do that currently,” she said. “It would be nice to be able to add that opportunity to the neighborhood.”

“I’m excited (by) all the outreach from the people in Edgewater,” Soncrant said. “I think we’ve just expanded our reach instead of moving our reach.”

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