- Joseph Lloyd
Evanston, Illinois, is a suburban town for city-dwellers. Once dubbed ‘Heavenston’ for its numerous Methodist churches, today the name evokes bucolic tree-lined suburbs and the picturesque shores of Lake Michigan. The presence of the highly respected Northwestern University and the town’s proximity to Chicago have lent Evanston a youthful energy and creativity. The past few years have seen Evanston experience a culinary explosion, with several new restaurants opening each year. Here are 10 of the town’s best dining establishments.
Found Kitchen & Social House
Although it only opened in 2012, Found has quickly become one of Evanston’s most popular and celebrated venues. With monthly charity fundraisers and a commitment to locally-sourced ingredients, it has become a true pillar of the community. The decor, with a deliberately haphazard arrangement of mismatched vintage tables, chairs and paintings, gives the restaurant one of the hippest airs in town, equal parts urban warehouse and eccentric manor. Alongside a faithful local clientele and a menu heavy on generous sharing plates, it’s easy to feel like you’ve been invited to a friend’s kitchen. Chef Nicola Pederson has a passion for seasonal produce, taking special delight in autumnal flavors – sample the fennel, apple and sweet potato soup, or the pan-roasted celery root.
Found Kitchen, 1631 Chicago Ave, Evanston, IL., USA, +1 847-868-8945
The newest restaurant on this list, the Peckish Pig is the town’s first and only representative of a burgeoning American trend – the microbrewery pub. As well as stocking ale from Evanston’s Temperance Beer Co., the pig serves its own selection of home-brewed beers on tap. Opened and operated by a husband and wife team, the Pig has a sophisticated urban vibe, with hanging lanterns, velveteen benches and exposed brickwork. The food is perfectly complementary, taking the idea of British pub grub but spinning it into something far more inspired and delicious. Balls of ham hock are glazed in salted caramel, the chicken comes with a butternut squash cream and, for dessert, peanut butter and jam are deep-fried in sumptuous ‘butty’.
Peckish Pig, 623 Howard St., Evanston, IL, USA, +1 847-491-6778
Dixie Kitchen & Bait Shop
Sitting next to the vast lakeside campus of Northwestern, one of the US’s oldest and finest universities, the Dixie Kitchen looks like it should be in the opposite end of the States. With checkerboard tablecloths surrounded by fishing accoutrements from the bayou, it’s the best place in the north for a taste of the Deep South. And don’t just take our word for it – when located in its former spot in Chicago, it was Barack Obama’s favourite place to eat. From jumbo to jambalaya, crab cakes to crayfish, here you’ll find all manner of Creole, Cajun and southern cuisine. The catfish – served with a traditional corn muffin – is perhaps the highlight of the menu.
Dixie Kitchen, 825 Church St., Evanston, IL, USA, +1 847-733-9030
Evanston’s culinary scene may be dominated by trendy new pop-ups and rustic New American concoctions, but there’s always room for fine dining. Situated on the edge of the lively Main Street neighborhood, Oceanique is one of the most glamorous restaurants in the whole Chicago area and has been an Evanston institution for twenty-five years. Chef Mark Grosz has a reputation for incredible friendliness, regularly chatting to guests and sending out amuse-bouches on the house. His food, which mixes traditional French fish and seafood dishes with an adventurous global touch, is superb. The Maine lobster comes garnished with mozzarella, caviar and avocado, whilst the scallops are accompanied by coriander and kimchi.
Oceanique, 505 Main St., Evanston, IL, USA, +1 847-864-3435
Situated Evanston’s northernmost district, which retains the appearance and atmosphere of a small country town, Prairie Joe’s has been the town’s finest diner for almost a quarter of a century. Its cluttered interior, with an abundance of retro furnishings and old-school leather booths, has the well-worn feel of a community favorite. With a core selection of breakfast and diner classics, it’s a matchless place for a strong coffee and an indulgent spot of brunch. For something more exotic, the hand-written special menus feature Mexican stews, Turkish kofta and spicy egg-and-lentil dishes.
Prairie Joe’s, 1921 Central St., Evanston, IL, USA, +1 847-491-0391
Opened by a Parisian who moved to Evanston with his American wife, Bistro Bordeaux lives up to the ‘L’authentique’ printed on its window. Inside, you could easily be in a fine French establishment, with smart white tablecloths, wood-paneled walls and framed art nouveau posters. Although the attentive staff sport bow-ties and waistcoats, the Bistro is anything but stuffy. Follow some fantastic Burgundy escargots with a pan-roasted Idaho river trout, finished off with a rotating selection of fine imported French cheese. Or come in the morning for the richest brunch menu in town, featuring moules frites, steak a cheval and a hearty casserole.
Bistro Bordeaux, 618 Church St., Evanston, IL, USA, +1 847-424-1483
Sharing a kitchen with its more formal sibling The Stained Glass, The Cellar is a casual, intimate space that serves up some of Evanston’s finest fare. Set in a high-roofed former hair salon, this is the place locals go to for a pre-theater feast or a luxurious night-time snack. The extensive range of small plates are grouped by culture of origin and range from all-American buckets of fried chicken and sirloin steak sliders to Korean tilapia tacos and lobster curry.
The Cellar, 820 Clark St., Evanston, IL, USA, +1 847-864-8678
Farmhouse, a relatively recent arrival on the scene, looks exactly as you might expect, featuring rough fittings of battered wood, paintings of livestock and corrugated tin light shades. Sister to a Michelin-starred branch in Chicago, the much vaunted Farmhouse embodies the farm-to-plate ethos of contemporary Midwestern cuisine. Everything on the menu comes from Illinois and the surrounding states, even the forty-odd draft beers. The small menu delivers wholesome rustic fare with a focus on well-dressed cuts of meat, but the highlight might be the beer-battered Wisconsin cheese curds, served with house made catsup.
Farmhouse, 703 Church St., Evanston, IL, USA, +1 847-492-9700
Much of Evanston’s vitality comes from its status as a university town; indeed, Northwestern has become the town’s largest employer. Nestled in the center of the downtown district, Soulwich is a hugely popular lunch haunt for students. It may just offer the best sandwiches in town – Vietnamese-styled báhn mi stuffed with fillings that range though all of South and East Asia, whether Japanese wasabi teriyaki, Indonesian ginger or Indian paneer. Most baguettes come available in meat, vegetarian and vegan options, and you can enjoy them both inside the bright, spacious interior or at a table on the lively street.
Soulwich, 1634 Orrington Ave., Evanston, IL, USA, +1 847-328-2222
Edzo’s Burger Shop
Invariably elected the best burger joint in Evanston, Edzo’s serves patties of freshly-ground beef from a selection of local farms. The proprietor Eddie Lakin opened Edzo’s with the aim of transferring his knowledge of fine-dining to simple American food. Until recently, with the opening of a second branch in Chicago, he prepared, cooked and served the burgers himself. Though superficially the menu is simple, with just a couple of burgers and hot dogs, frequent special additions – think squash blossoms filled with goat’s cheese or braised goat – keep the prospect of return visit enticing. Even the hand-cut fries, which come served with almost a dozen toppings, are inventive.
Edzo’s Burger Shop, 1571 Sherman Ave., Evanston, IL, USA, +1 847-864-3396