Longtime Rattlesnake Restaurant Enters New Era
BY KATE WHITTLE
In the late 1990s, if a family moved into the Rattlesnake neighborhood and needed to run out for pantry staples or a bite to eat, there was one place to go—Rattlesnake Gardens, a market, coffee shop, restaurant and greenhouse.
Karen Byrne remembers that when she and her husband, Barrett, moved to the Lincolnwood area about 17 years ago, with two toddlers in tow, they beat the moving truck and didn’t have any kitchenware. She headed over to Rattlesnake Gardens and introduced herself to the owner, Craig MacDonald.
- Since 1997, a small market on the corner of Rattlesnake Drive and Powell has served residents of the quiet neighborhood. The new owners say they’re excited to carry on the tradition.
“So we said, ‘Gosh, can we borrow some bowls and spoons?’ And he was a very gracious neighbor,” Byrne says. “That was our first really great impression of what was in Rattlesnake Gardens.”
Over the years, she and her husband thought about purchasing the market and carrying on the spirit of a friendly local gathering place. On April 11, they officially bought the business and renamed it Rattlesnake Market and Cafe. The first big change: accepting credit cards for the first time in the location’s history.
“So that’s part of getting into new era,” Byrne says. “It’s the funniest thing. People thank us for taking cards.”
Byrne aims to continue renovating the business while retaining a lot of the quirky, historic character of the building, which sits next to the frame of the now-unused greenhouse. The market’s offerings now rotate a wider selection of craft beers, wines and kombucha, while the restaurant menu includes new kale salads, homemade veggie burgers and wraps. But longtime favorites—such as the Monday night chicken parmigiana special—will still be available.
Byrne says she knew it would be a balancing act to update the establishment, which first opened in 1997, without unsettling regulars. But several staff, including the cook, have remained with the market and kept it feeling familiar.
“We like people to feel at home, we like people to feel comfortable and welcome,” Byrne says, “whether they’re from this neighborhood or outside.”
She’s pleased, for instance, that the market is serving as a meeting place for staff at Rattlesnake Elementary, which is undergoing major renovations. In the same spirit of neighborliness she encountered when she first moved in, she donated a batch of cookies to the school before class started.
“Just to kind of tell ’em, ‘Hey, we’re thinking about you,’” she says.
It was also important to her to support the Rattlesnake’s other prominent commercial enterprise, Ten Spoon Winery. She suggests that customers grab their dinner in to-go boxes before heading to a wine tasting.