Vivian Farris Gives Illinois Street Food Emporium the Loyal Treatment

The new owner of a beloved midtown spot respects traditions.
Vivian Farris inherited an avid fan base when she took over the Illinois Street Food Emporium in August. After nearly 35 years under the watch of founders Ernie and Sue Kobets, the busy neighborhood spot had built a following hooked on its spinach melts, signature entrees, and enough homemade desserts to fill several glass cases. Those menu favorites won’t disappear. “I’ve received threats: ‘Don’t you dare change the brownie or the croissant sandwich,’” Farris says.
The restaurateur knows better, thanks to her own impressive background in the business. Her Greek grandparents (and later, her parents) owned Farris Cafeteria in Anderson, and the 56-year-old Farris recalls a childhood immersed in the food industry. Having never dabbled in the bakery business, Farris was apprehensive about taking on an institution known for its fruit tarts and layered cakes, and she wonders if her Yia-Yia (Greek for grandmother) is laughing at her from heaven. “She used to throw me out of the kitchen because my palms sweat so much that I’d ruin the dough,” Farris says. Changes to the menu may come slowly, but she plans to eventually introduce a Sunday brunch to the cafe’s lineup. “I may even add my own Greek heritage to the menu,” she says.
(1) Walking her dogs, Foxanne and Stella: “To relax and recharge after a long day at work.”
(2) Running: She won first place in her age division in the Sam Costa Half-Marathon in Carmel.
(3) Greek yogurt with honey: “My bedtime snack.”
(4) Napolese: “For the seasonal salads and pizza.”
(5) Twenty Tap: The pickled-beet salad, an order of french fries, and the chicken sandwich are her go-to choices.