Hewn Bakery brings their famous artisan bread to Libertyville

Hewn Bakery, a female-owned artisan bread bakery famous in Evanston, has expanded their business to 348 N Milwaukee Ave. in downtown Libertyville. Hewn Bakery has been featured in Food & Wine Magazine as one of the Best Bakeries in America. The Food Network listed Hewn Bakery as one of the Best Bread Bakeries in America and Thrillist declared Hewn Bakery as one of the Best Bakeries in Chicago.

Despite Hewn Bakery’s current fame, Hewn Bakery had a humble start in June of 2013. 


From the Underground Bread Club to Hewn Bakery

Ellen King, co-owner and director of baking operations at Hewn Bakery, is a classically trained chef who first started working at high-end restaurants before discovering her desire for bread.

Julie Matthei, co-owner and director of business operations at Hewn Bakery, said that King first started baking at home, eventually creating what she called the Underground Bread Club. 

In an email interview, Matthei said, “People in the neighborhood would order bread once a week and she would deliver it on her bike to her customers.” 

Matthei, one of King’s Underground Bread Club customers, saw the potential in King’s baking, which began the idea of her taking her baking up a notch.

Hewn Bakery has grown bit by bit over the years after its opening in June of 2013. 

We did an expansion at our first location in 2016 and quickly outgrew it,” Matthei said. “We bought our current building in 2019 and rehabbed it.” 

Hewn Bakery’s Evanston location was scheduled to reopen after the renovation in March of 2020. Due to the pandemic, Hewn Bakery had to change their plans various times to get to where they are today.

“Our customers have been very loyal and supportive and we are fortunate to have a talented staff who work very hard to create the best possible products,” Matthei said.


From Evanston to Libertyville

Due to Hewn Bakery’s success in Evanston, King and Matthei hunted out a few locations for their first outpost in the northern and western suburbs of Chicago. 

“We already had many customers from Libertyville, Vernon Hills, Lake Forest and other nearby towns who would make the drive to Evanston for our bread and pastries,” Matthei said. “When we found the space in Libertyville, we knew it would be a good fit.”

Hewn Bakery was already fairly well known in the area and the co-owners liked how the Libertyville location was downtown, surrounded by small businesses. Soon after the decision was made, Hewn Bakery opened their first outpost here in early Jan. 2023.

What is it about Hewn Bakery’s bread?

Hewn Bakery’s bread isn’t any ordinary bread that someone could buy off a grocery store shelf. Hewn Bakery gathers their ingredients from local farmers and uses organic flour and grains.

“All of our breads are hand-shaped and naturally fermented without commercial yeast or any preservatives, chemicals, or additives,” Matthei explained. “Using a sourdough starter in all our breads, coupled with stone milled grains, allows the bread to ferment slowly over time and produces a richer, more complex flavor.” This allows the gluten proteins to naturally break down over time. 

This sourdough starter was created by King several years ago. Matthei said that du

e to the process and the organic ingredients that they use in their breads, people with gluten sensitivity can usually tolerate them.


A customer’s perspective

Among Hewn Bakery’s pleased customers is English teacher Matt Tooley. “I’ve always loved really good loaves of fresh bread that don’t have all the preservatives,” Mr. Tooley said. “There’s just a higher quality to it. I’ve been looking forward to a bakery like that to come for ages.”

Tooley was the first in line at the day of the grand opening, making him their first customer.

“They were very helpful, pretty speedy given how busy it was,” Tooley said. “You can tell that they have experience with their bakery in Evanston; they know what they’re doing.”


A look into the future

Matthei said the definition of “hewn” is “to give form or shape with heavy cutting blows by hand [as] a way to connect the past with the future.” Hewn Bakery’s successful past and early success in Evanston, and now Libertyville, points towards more locations  in the future.