Two Downtown Evanston Eateries Close

Tiny Dog CUPCAKE! and Merle's BBQ both closed after the New Year.

There are now fewer places to find cupcakes and smoked meats in Evanston. As of Jan. 1, both Merle's BBQ and Tiny Dog CUPCAKE! have closed up shop.

A note posted on the Merle's website noted that the business lost its lease on Jan. 1.

"We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused you. We will miss you very much but wish you all a great 2012," the site reads.

"We will be happy to serve you at Davis Street Fishmarket, 501 Davis Street."

Merle's faced negative publicity in February after the city blamed it for an illness outbreak at Haven parent/teacher conferences. Thirty people became sick from chicken that was served "buffet style" at the school, and the

A spokesman for the restaurant later said that the city blamed Merle's without solid evidence.

"We’re trying to clear up our reputation and we’re trying to let people know that the city screwed up," the spokesman

Tiny Dog, on Davis Street, was a small cupcake shop that only lasted a little over a year.

The shop and served cupcakes and drinks, later expanding to ice cream and brunch items.

A voicemail left for was not returned at press time. The listed phone number for led to an answering machine that has not been updated since it closed, as it still included information about making reservations at the restaurant.

While the two places are now closed, there has been a small boom in new restaurants in downtown. Austin's Tacos is now open just up the street from Tiny Dog, and a few blocks away are an Asian sandwich shop, Soulwich, and a new Asian take-out spot, Bento Express.


Share your memories of Tiny Dog and Merle's with other Evanstonians on our Facebook page.

Richard Schulte January 04, 2012 at 12:08 PM
I'm sad to hear about Merle's. Haven't been there is a while-the recession, you know.
John Miller January 04, 2012 at 01:33 PM
You notice, our business-friendly city fathers (and mothers) have NOT apologized for their egregious error in blaming Merle's for the food incident at the school. What does that tell you???
jim January 04, 2012 at 01:42 PM
Downtown Evanston keeps getting more and more empty stores. Only problem is its not limited to Downtown.
el debarge January 04, 2012 at 04:16 PM
Enough with cupcakes already. Amazing how ignorant some people can be when dreaming up a business. Cereal anyone??
Kevin O'Connor January 04, 2012 at 05:38 PM
As downtown Evanston has been transformed into an outdoor food court for N.U. and the surrounding area, the fact that only 2 eateries have closed (in this young year, 2012) should be the surprise. A reasonable person would expect with so much competition and a continually shrinking disposable income dollar for the 99% that cannibalization will continue to occur throughout Evanston. Add to that reality the property tax, parking fee and other nickel and dime fee increases from our fiscally mismanaged Mayor & City Council in the last budget for this FY, the burning question becomes: " What leased business, commercial or residential property owner can afford to stay in Evanston?" A short answer would be those that have gotten facade improvements, sales tax rebates, property tax rebates or TIF dollars (see Ward Mfg. (700k) also Gordon Food Service) amongst many other fiscally irresponsible financial handouts that our elected officials have handed out the past year. "Privatizing profit & sociallizing risk" is the unofficial business model of Evanston during the fraudulent "boom years" and unbelievably still the order of the day. All citizens and taxpayers probably should be considering whether you can afford the Evanston City Council providing less services for higher taxes, increased fees and new fees ad nauseum going forward.. Remember this takes place while no current or past elected official will take ownership for how Evanston got bankrupt. Bon apetit! Bankruptcy, now, anyone?
Deborah Krueger January 04, 2012 at 08:06 PM
Merle's has been going down for awhile. My family stopped eating there about a year ago. The meat was cooked dry, not moist. Spices used were not as good as before. The last few deliveries we received from them had wrong items or missing items. It took phone calls to straighten them out, but in the end they stood by their mistakes and made compensations. Too bad for them and for Evanston.
Sully January 04, 2012 at 09:27 PM
Trust me on this one, Rich. It would have been a waste of your money. It went down hill a whole lot. The food just wasn't good anymore, so while it's too bad it closed, it's not surprising.
Sully January 04, 2012 at 09:38 PM
Socialist-liberal plot? Was it proven that Merle's was not at fault? I had actually forgotten that incident. The food just got bad which is why I stopped going. But unless Merle's was cleared of any fault, the city owes no apology.
lucas January 04, 2012 at 11:42 PM
The health department confirmed that the bacteria came from barbecue pulled chicken that was prepared at the restaurant and served "buffet style" at the school. "No temperatures were taken at the time of delivery and the food was not kept heated or refrigerated during the time it was being served," the city said. The city said it is working with the restaurant and the school to prevent a similar occurrence from happening again.
Sully January 05, 2012 at 12:59 AM
That's what I thought, Stanley. There are those on here who don't like to deal with facts.
lucas January 05, 2012 at 02:06 AM
Suspect the school was more at fault then Merles. But seems there was fault by both. Haven't eaten at Merle's so can't complain about food. Seems most that have thought it was going downhill. Just a shame to see additional vacant places around town.
Samantha Nelson January 05, 2012 at 03:52 AM
I'm sad to hear about both places but I can't say I'm surprised. My NU student friends and I would go to Merle's as a special treat or when family was in town but I stopped going more than a year ago after noticing a significant decrease in quality. Notably one of my favorite items, the cornbread, changed forms and they stopped serving the delicious complementary horseradish and crackers I'm not a big fan of cupcakes but Tiny Dog actually was ideal for me because they had such tiny bites that I'd get the flavor I wanted and be done. But I never saw it crowded and it didn't seem like a particularly sustainable business.
Sully January 05, 2012 at 10:57 AM
I'm not sure about the school being more at fault; I'd have to give equal credit to both. It seems to have been a mess from the get-go. Regardless, it was the quality of food the restaurant offered it's customers that was it's downfall. Nothing political about it, Mr. Miller.
TAKH January 05, 2012 at 03:35 PM
Went to Tiny Dog for the first time just before Christmas and I was VERY disappointed. Bennison's has much better cupcakes at a more reasonable price. I could make a better tasting cupcake than the ones I got at Tiny Dog. It's sad to see almost any business fail and I feel for the owner(s) but the cupcakes were quite bad.
Richard Schulte January 12, 2012 at 12:39 AM
Stopped by Merle's today. There was a sign on the door that said that Merle's opened in 1992. It's hard to believe that 20 years have gone by. I still remember when they first opened. Very sad. I read on Patch that Carmen's Pizza was open again, but I went by the building on Church and the eviction notice was still on the door. Haven't walked around downtown Evanston in a few months-there sure are a lot of vacant spaces in downtown Evanston.
Jessica Rudis (Editor) January 12, 2012 at 01:24 AM
Carmen's is in the process of reopening. They recently got a liquor license and they have a sign up. It's not on Church St. anymore though, it's on Chicago Ave. right down the street from Union. We'll put a notice up when it reopens!
lucas January 12, 2012 at 01:38 AM
Richard Talk a walk down Howard Custer to Ridge lots of empty stores a numer of them Owned by the City. Surpised Patch hasn't put that online
Richard Schulte January 12, 2012 at 02:37 AM
"Talk a walk down Howard Custer to Ridge lots of empty stores a numer of them Owned by the City. Surpised Patch hasn't put that online" Stanley, I've been thinking about your comment above for the last half hour or so. I've lived in Evanston for 29 years-it's depressing to think about. I remember auto row on Chicago Avenue, the Toys R Us in the shopping center at Dempster and Dodge and Marshal Field downtown. And now, I'm planning on leaving Evanston for Florida because of the poor business climate here. I'm sure I'll miss Evanston.
Clif Brown January 12, 2012 at 11:41 PM
I walked by the site of the long closed Cafe Luciano's on Green Bay Road next to MotoFoto today (Jan 12) and saw work going on. I asked the workers what was going to open there and they said it would be a restaurant.
lucas January 21, 2012 at 03:48 AM
Enjoy Florida. Today would have been a good one their.


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