December 1, 2015
By Audrey Roen
Last Sunday, I had the pleasure of walking into 7445 W. Madison Avenue in Forest Park. Amidst the fresh snow and the old familiar Chicago sludge, the atmosphere for the grand opening of Scratch Kitchen and Lounge was nothing short of inviting. Lengthy couches were placed to the left and the right of the door, surrounded by coffee tables decorated with balloons and candles on plates of coffee beans. The baristas were busy with customers finding their way to the coffee bar and eventually back to the deli with in house roasted meats and homemade sauces. Tables and chairs surrounding flat screen T.V.’s and friends stood around to talk.
By all accounts, Scratch looked incredible. And that’s where I found Sara.
Sara Scheler is a recent graduate of Dominican University with a degree in Nutrition and Dietetics and a minor in Journalism. She began working at Scratch Deli and Kitchen in June of 2014 and is currently the manager of Scratch deli and café that first opened its doors last Sunday. After walking in, she handed me a free cup of coffee, we sat on the couch, and started to talk about Scratch.
The mission statement of Scratch is as follows: “A few things done perfectly, served in a fun environment, with great service.” The last two made sense to me, but I asked Sara what “a few things done perfectly,” meant to her. She told me very simply at Scratch, “We don’t do a lot. We do sandwiches, coffee, that kind of thing…We keep it to the basics but we do our things very well.”
Although Scratch is one of 19 surrounding restaurants and café’s on Madison Street, the deli and coffee bar obtain food and drink items from local businesses while putting heart and soul into a sandwich that no other shop on Madison Street can.
“I’m going to go ahead and say it, our stuff is much better than any others on the street.” Scheler stated. “We have a chef with a culinary degree who builds the sandwiches from our home roasted meats and sauces. We have better ingredients, better sauce, better service. It is more creative too, you’re not going to find our sandwiches at Subway.”
As the former President of the Dominican University Nutrition Club and former managing editor of the Dominican Star, I asked Sara how she found herself in the foodservice management side of nutrition. She didn’t feel like taking a health promotion track or a clinical job like us nut jobs?
“Dominican’s nutrition program is very culinary based, that’s part of the reason why I chose it,” She explained. “I didn’t want to pursue the clinical side of nutrition and I found that marketing wasn’t really my thing.” But with her work experience and enthused personality, Sara found she could use her knowledge of food and nutrition to provide a suitable food product for the community, “Every day you sell things to people, you have a product that you’re proud of every day, and you have a degree in nutrition so you know a lot about food.”
This knowledge and energy goes a long way: with only 5 baristas and 6 deli workers, the employees of Scratch are busy already. Every employee works to prepare food from Illinois based sources, something Scratch Deli and Café prides itself on providing for the community. Their coffee bar is the only one to serve Two Brother’s Coffee made in Warrenville Illinois, roasted every week and ground every day just for Scratch. The beer is supplied from Chicago based companies including Revolution, Two Brothers, and Finches. Their sauces are made daily and their meat is prepared in the back. In house prepared and Illinois sourced is Scratch’s definition of local.
Finally, working with the surrounding restaurants is a distinguishing feature of Scratch Deli and has been found to make economic sense for all parties involved. Scratch Deli and Café took over the kitchen at Slainte Irish pub down the street and operates as Scratch West. Scratch caters to events held in the upstairs party room and Slainte’s kitchen is used to serve food for Scratch’s late night menu offerings. Sara claims Scratch has massively improved the food offerings at Slaint’s and serves mouthwatering late night options such as funky pizza, loaded nachos and legs with 12 different sauces.
With trivia, bingo, family movie nights, anticipated beer on tap and delivery service, Sara is looking forward to serving a product she is proud of and hopes to deliver the few things done well to whoever comes through the doors. “Our target audience is everybody!” Overall, I was highly pleased with the warm and comforting environment Scratch provides as busy Chicagoans hustle through the cold. I see Scratch as a late night get away from the hustle of Oak Park and the place to go for “the best” in town. I predict they will grow and thrive among Oak Park’s tight knit network of locally sourced vendors while providing nothing short of the best for whoever comes through the door.
Mon – Thurs: 11am – 1am
Fri & Sat: 11am – 2am
Sunday: 11am – midnight
7445 W. Madison Ave.
Forest Park IL