Without much fanfare, the new Old Town Oil has slid right in to the site of the former Vose-Sanders Bootery at 1924 Central, adding a wealth of flavors to Central Street, the destination food district of Evanston. Smartly outfitted in new custom cherry-finish millwork to complement the existing wood trim from the long-standing shoe store, the gourmet oil-and-vinegar boutique presents the visitor with a visually impressive array of olfactory treats.
The west wall (shown above) is lined with olive oils and other gourmet lubricants (walnut, sesame) from around the globe. The east wall has an equal number of balsamics. All are available, at least for now, for tasting.
Both oils and vinegars sell in the range of $15-$19 for a 375ml bottle, and the store gives you a $2 credit when you bring back the bottle. Is it worth it? I sampled several combinations, including a basil olive oil with a delicious strawberry balsamic that made me instantly salivating for dinner, a subtle garlic oil with an oregano balsamic that screamed Mediterranean fare, and a toasty sesame oil with fragrant ginger-honey vinegar that would transform any sliced-breast-of-chicken salad into an Asian delight. One bottle will easily dress dozens of dishes.
Just in case you can't get enough of olive oil through eating alone, a few healthy olive-oil-based body and bath products are available for sale. If you like olive oil, this is heaven. Also complementing the oil and vinegar are a small number of enticing jarred condiments.
Like The Spice House across the street, Old Town Oil has a counterpart in the city of Chicago, to which north-siders and suburbanites need not trek now that this outlet is open. The staffers I met are longtime Evanstonians, happy to chat about their wares. Old Town Oil adds yet one more ingredient to a Central Street food scene bursting with local flavor.