Evanston is a unique place. It’s close enough to Chicago that it’s accessible by the L, but it’s definitely not the city. It’s a nice suburb, but also a college town. And it’s home to Northwestern, the only private school in the Big 10, 14, whatever. The point is, all of these factors lead to an excellent food scene in Evanston, one that has been growing pretty fast over the years.
Evanston is worth eating in whether you live there or not. As a college campus, it’s a great place to explore by foot, but the eating opportunities are endless if you have access to a car, which you do because it’s 2015 and UberX is a thing. These are the best restaurants in Evanston, courtesy of a Northwestern alum who missed the place so much she’s now back for a second degree.
Bat 17 is an Evanston favorite and worthy of such honor. But it’s not for the faint of stomach. You have to be hungry when you get here, we’re talking hungry hungry hippos style. The menu is enormous, ranging from brunch, soups, any kind sandwich, salads, burgers, and more. And the portions are more than most can finish in one sitting. It’s perfect for brunch (try a balawat) or watching the game (order a beer tower along with your sliders). Most people don’t save room for dessert…but you should. Consider popping into the bar only side if you’re ready to commit to apps and beer.
This is where you need to go for an extensive and excellent selection of burgers, fries, and milkshakes. It’s a small place right in downtown Evanston that is the perfect spot for any French fry lover torn between cheese fries, garlic fries, old fries, crazy fries, loaded fries, Taylor street fries, buffalo fries, angry fries, and our favorite, truffle fries. Of course, the burgers are also great.
Al’s Deli is a Northwestern student favorite. Get the roast beef sandwich after watching a football game at Ryan Field and you won’t be disappointed. Don’t forget to try a homemade cookie. Seriously, don’t. The homemade cookies might be the best part.
Foodstuffs is a gourmet sandwich shop that attracts Northwestern females and suburban moms alike. Go for the salad bar, make-your-own sandwich counter, or try one of the soups. Or just go for the samples, because dips, crackers, cookies, chips, cheese and more are always at your disposal. It’s far enough away from campus that there’s usually no line and it’s definitely worth the trek.
Found is a relatively new addition to Evanston where the food is great and the vibes are…greater. It’s a farm-to-table style place focusing on local ingredients, and the décor is eclectic and open with a Bohemian Parisian vibe. This is definitely a restaurant you want to go to with friends and share small plates with the group. A dinner at Found and a cocktail will take the edge off of studying for finals. It will also take the edge off when you realize you didn’t study for finals.
Campagnola is a cute Italian restaurant outside the main downtown Evanston drag. Never too busy with college students, it’s ideal for solid Italian food and good wine. The vibe in the restaurant is comfortable and quiet so consider it for any date night or family affair. Go heavy on the pastas.
Though the location is technically in Wilmette, we’re still calling this an Evanston brunch staple because whatever we do what we want. Get there early and be ready to wait because the line is usually out-the-door. Known for its big apple cinnamon pancake, Walker Bros’ pancakes can’t be beat. You can get a well-balanced meal of an oven-baked omelet, side of pancakes, and glass of orange juice that your waiter will undoubtedly tempt you with.
Pizzas, salads and small plates – what could be better? Union Pizzeria serves Evanston’s best thin crust pizza with a fun atmosphere to go along with it.
Surprisingly, Evanston is flush with brunch spots but limited in late-night eats for a college campus. Enter Cheesie’s. In a town where the only other late night food option is BK Lounge (re: Burger King), Cheesie’s hits the spot after a night out. There are 10 different varieties of grilled cheese, all of which are amazing in the moment and regrettable the next day. Still worth it.
Koi is a fun Asian restaurant in the heart of downtown Evanston (also a good choice for takeout). Most of our favorites are from the noodles and rice section of the menu, but feel free to go with anything.
Kansaku is a solid date night sushi spot in downtown Evanston. It’s fancier and a little more expensive than other similar places, but definitely worth it. Start with the spicy tuna tartar, move to some nigiri, and make sure to try one of their special maki rolls.
One of the nicer restaurants in Evanston, Stained Glass is sure to be crowded on parents’ weekend. Impress mom and dad with your refined palate even though you probably haven’t eaten anything but pizza, fried stuff, and cereal for the last month.
By a popular vote of NU students, this is the best Thai restaurant in Evanston. It’s cheap, delicious, and big enough for a group dinner if you want to gather the crew, but also great for takeout. Order the noodles, curries, and crab Rangoon.
Known as Buff Joe’s to the regulars, this is the dream for every college guy and adult male who wishes he could eat like he was still in college. Wings are what they’re known for, but everything from the burgers to dogs to Italian beefs to chicken sandwiches are fair game. Make sure to get chips (waffle fries) and an RC Cola, which is definitively inferior to other pop but it’s all they have and the thing to do. And yes, it’s pop, not soda.
THE spot for excellent and casual greek food. Gryos? Yup. Burgers? Why not? Our go-to is the chicken Greek style. Get it with fries, egg lemon soup, pita, and of course, extra juice. You need all of the white wine and lemon herb sauce over the chicken that you can get. For $11 it’s pure robbery.
What do you get when a quality coffee shop combines forces with a great bakery specializing in pie? A steady dose of pie and coffee, obviously. Done and done.
The name says it all. Tapas Barcelona has great sangria and awesome bacon wrapped dates, because we’re pretty sure that’s a requirement for any successful tapas restaurant. It’s a fun place ideal for bigger groups, and should definitely be on the short list for the next ladies night out.
The best fried chicken in Evanston, and one of the best fried chicken spots in the greater Chicago area as a whole. That’s saying something. No judgement if you want to get a bucket of chicken to yourself.
You might not know this, but you’re in serious need of some authentic Jamaican food in your life. And that’s where Claire’s Korner comes into play. Claire is, in fact, a real person, and she’s doing some great work out of her kitchen. Clarie’s should be strictly takeout, and while it’s not necessarily cheap eats, the weight of the styrofoam container alone is evidence you get your money’s worth. Beginners should stick to the jerk chicken, but don’t be afraid to try things involving goat and oxtail.
Boltwood is proof that the Evanston dining scene has come a long way over the years, because how else do you explain a chef leaving his job at The Publican to open this place instead? The relatively new restaurant is a minimalist space with rotating seasonal ingredients and a loud atmosphere. It’s a fun time and the New American menu offers something for everyone.
There’s some great ethnic food in Evanston, and we’re all in on Mt. Everest, which serves both Nepalese and Indian food. Carry out, come for a comforting dinner, or stop in for their lunch buffet everyday – the eating equivalent of climbing Everest. You’ll be proud of yourself after reaching peak fullness.