With the new year, Homewood will be getting a new restaurant, adding a Cajun/Creole flavor to the village's dining repertoire.
On Thursday, Jan. 11, Hidden Manna, a locally owned restaurant in Matteson, will be opening an express version at 17949 Halted St. The hours will be 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
Co-owner Glynis Harvey said the new restaurant would not have the full menu found at the Matteson location, because the space is designed more for take-out than sit-down dining, but Homewood area diners can expect some of Hidden Manna's specialties: fried green tomatoes, shrimp and grits, catfish and grits and New Orleans pasta.
Harvey said she and her husband, Mark Cagely, did not intend to get into the restaurant business. After both retired from the Chicago Transit Authority — she was an electrical engineer, he was a mechanic — they focused on their passion for buying and renovating buildings.
They fell in love with the former restaurant building at 3613 216th St. in Matteson. They rehabbed the 1880 building and started their own restaurant there. It opened in 2008.
The original menu did not have a specific theme but was more of a "hodgepodge," Harvey said.
"We let our customers choose what's going to be on the menu," she said. "The shrimp and grits came out as the star."
That led to more southern recipes, giving Harvey a chance to tap into her heritage. Although she grew up on the south side of Chicago, her grandmother was born and raised in New Orleans, renowned for its Cajun and Creole roots.
"A lot of the recipes are recipes I grew up with," she said.
That may be what gives the restaurant's fare its homemade quality. Harvey said customers have remarked about it on local social media channels.
"One person said it's like going into your grandmother's house and sitting in her kitchen," she said. "That's how much love is in the food. That was the whole goal."
Her favorite dish is the gumbo, a variation on the traditional Louisiana dish. Rather than Andouille sausage, the Hidden Manna recipe uses chicken, she said, in deference to customer preferences.
Other specialties include vegan and vegetarian items. Harvey said their blended family has members who have been vegan, so they understand the frustrations of limited choices vegan diners face.
They also are proud of their coffee options. They serve Metropolis coffee, which is roasted in Chicago.
Recently, the couple had been thinking about expanding, and Cagely discovered the open spot in the shopping strip on the northeast corner of the Halsted and Ridge Road intersection. It seemed like a good opportunity to test the waters, she said.
"We're hoping to see if it would generate enough business for us to open another full fledged restaurant," she said.