Exploring Evanston Illinois

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This tree-lined suburb of close to 75,000 people is located 12 miles directly north of downtown Chicago.  It is home to the famed Northwestern University. The students give the town a great energy.  If you have time, it is worth the visit.  You can drive, take the el and/or train to the downtown area.  The attractive downtown area has some excellent restaurants, shops and galleries.

Our top restaurant picks include:

The Stained Glass Bistro at 1735 Benson Ave. this is a warm space for American cuisine featuring seasonal ingredients, plus an extensive wine list.

Mt. Everest for great Nepalese and Indian cuisine at 630 Church St.  I was back recently and still love the food. I recommend the non-vegetarian value platter for two which gives you several great dishes to try.

Found Kitchen and Social House is a new hot spot, at 1631 Chicago Ave., with great food and wonderful eclectic decor.

The owner of Found Kitchen and Social House recently opened The Barn, featuring steaks and cocktails in the warm, rustic atmosphere of a former horse stable. The barn was operated in the late 1880s by the Borden Condensed Milk Co. The meat-centric menu, does feature some fish, pasta and chicken entrees as well. I enjoyed the bison bolognese and my friends the pork chop and the lasagna special. It is located in the rear of 1016 Church St. in downtown Evanston and is a little tricky to find. So go down the alley  between Davis, Church, Maple, and Oak Streets. They offer valet parking in the lot.

Blind Faith Cafe, at 525 Dempster, is a perfect vegetarian spot for lunch or brunch. It has been open for over 30 years and is located on the southern part of town. I just had a wonderful omelette with pesto and goat cheese which comes with a side salad and corn muffin.

Boltwood at 804 Davis St., in the heart of downtown, this is a newer restaurant that is getting great press  I enjoyed dinner with friends.  The food was excellent.

Farmhouse: Located at  703 Church St., this is a great new spot  I really like the location at 228 W. Chicago Ave. in Chicago, and this is their second location. I enjoyed a Sunday brunch with friends.

I also just heard about Patisserie Coralie, at 600 Davis St., for great French pastries.  Can’t wait to check it out.

A top new find is FEW Spirits at 918 Chicago Ave.  It is tucked away in an alley so find 916 and head down the alley to the left.  It is a small local distillery named after Frances Willard, the head of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, which fought for prohibition.  She lived nearby in Evanston. This craft distillery makes a number of gins, whiskeys and bourbon.  I enjoyed a tour along with a tasting.  My favorites were the Rye Whiskey and the  newly released Single Malt Whiskey.  The Bourbon and the Barrel Gin, seasoned in oak barrels, were also good.  The labels and branding all are taken from scenes of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exhibition in Chicago.

Not far is the Frances Willard House Museum at 1730 Chicago Ave. It was built n 1865 and Willard lived in the house from then until she died in 1898. There are a number of displays and you can visit the rooms as well.

Mary and Leigh Block Art Museum:  Located on the Northwestern Campus, is the well-known Mary and Leigh Block Art Museum.  Here, you can see its permanent collection or one of its temporary exhibitions. The museum building is really exceptional.  It opened in 2000 and was designed by Chicago architect Dirk Lohan, the grandson of famed architect Mies van der Rohe.

The permanent collection of close to 5,000 items, has diverse holdings including works on paper, architectural drawings, photographs, textiles and bronze sculptures.  Artists include Albrecht Durer, Honore Daumier, Mary Cassatt, Max Beckmann, Andy Warhol, Ed Paschke and Sarah Sze.  4 Arts Circle Drive.

They also have the Block Cinema with showings several times a month.  Check the website for the current schedule.  The Northwestern University School of Communication has theater productions there throughout the year from October to May.

Located across from the campus is Northwestern’s  Alice Millar Chapel at 1870 Sheridan Rd. The highlight of this 700 seat chapel  built in 1962, are the stunning, colorful and abstract stained glass windows. Towards the north end of the campus is the Dearborn Observatory built in 1889.  It is open on Fridays for viewing.

One of my favorite antique stores in the Fulton Market area has now moved to Evanston.  Check out Jan’s Antiques at 2002 Dempster.

Gross Point Lighthouse: At 2601 Sheridan Rd. is a 113-foot lighthouse built in 1874 as navigational aid for Lake Michigan. It is now owned by the city and still operates using its original lens. There are a number of diplays in keeper’s cottage.

Evanston History Center/Dawes House: At 225 Greenwood St. this is a grand mansion built by Henry Edwards-Ficken in 1894. It was the home of Charles Gates Dawes who served at Vice President of the Us from 1925 to 1929 under Calvin Coolidge. He was also the recipient of the 1925 Nobel Peace Prize. The opulent interior is really lovely and there are a number of exihbits to explore as well. It has been a National Historic Landmark since 1976.

If you want to stay local, I recently toured the Margarita European Inn at 1566 Oak Ave. This building from 1927, was the former Margarita Club for Working Women that provided housing for young business women. Today is it a lovely, formal bed and breakfast that has a lovely sitting room and library plus a roof deck for the warmer months overlooking downtown Evanston. The 46 rooms on five floors are beautifully furnished.

Just west of Evanston in Lincolnwood at 7110 N. Lincoln Ave. is L. Woods Tap & Pine Lodge. This is a traditional, rustic supper club featuring comfort food from salads, sandwiches and burgers to whitefish, walleye, chicken and ribs. I loved the warm atmosphere. It has been there for many years, but has been under current ownership since 1998. I enjoyed lunch with a friend, but they are also open for dinner.

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