For a change of pace from the city of Chicago, head north to the the suburbs of Glencoe, Glenview, Winnetka and Wilmette. They have a mix of theater, art galleries, boutiques, architectural treasures and great restaurants.
This historic village from 1869, became popular with residents of Chicago in the early 1900s when poor air quality and overcrowding was an issue and they decided to move out. It is always one of my favorite suburbs to explore as I have several close friends who live there.
For the best in theater make a beeline for the Writer’s Theatre in Glencoe. Terry Teachout of the Wall Street Journal says that this is one of the best regional theaters in the country. I have been to several plays and musicals over the years and their productions are really outstanding!!! Their new building, opened in 2016, was designed by well-known Chicagoan Jeannie Gang of Studio Gang Architects. You will love the large atrium, the performance spaces and outside areas.
While in Glencoe you can grab a bite at the great gourmet grocery Foodstuffs at 338 Park Ave. or have a meal at the recently opened Guildhall at 694 Vernon Ave. This is a wonderful addition to the local food scene as there were very few options before. It is perfect for brunch, or dinner before the theater. They are also open for lunch during the week. There is a large outdoor patio as well.
Before my recent musical at the Writers Theatre, I did go for brunch and enjoyed the lox and bagel platter. It is very popular and was very busy with several large groups, so make sure to book your reservtion well in advance.
In the past, I always stopped in at Glencoe Roast Coffee at 700 Vernon, but the owners retired and it has been reopened as Hometown Coffee & Juice. I was there after it reopened and was back again to find that the space had doubled. They now have more seating, counter space and added food items.
Also good is An Apple A Day Catering & Meg’s Cafe. Their menu feature a number of salads, sandwiches, burgers and street tacos. They also sell boxed meals that you can take to Ravinia for a picnic on the grass. 317 Park. Ave.
Make sure to visit the Anne Loucks Art Gallery at 309 Park Ave. She carries some great artists, including one of my favorites, Stephen Dinsmore.
In July make sure to visit the Glencoe Festival of Art. The festival, which covers Glencoe’s downtown, features more than 90 juried artists showing and selling paintings, sculpture, ceramics, glass, jewelry and more. I was very impressed with the quality.
Nearby is the Ravinia Festival, one of the top Summer music venues for classical music as the Summer home of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra as well as for popular music concerts It has three venues and a number of dining options.
Also nearby is the Chicago Botanic Garden. I went back recently after many years and loved the experience. The spring flowers were in bloom and I particularly enjoyed the Japanese Garden and the English Walled Garden. You can also enjoy breakfast and lunch in the Garden View Café. Currently you need to reserve your time online before you go.
Make sure to walk through Lakefront Park to see the views of Lake Michigan and Glencoe Beach and the Beach Pavilion.
I was not aware until recently that Glencoe has the third largest collection of homes designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in the country, behind Chicago and Oak, Park, IL. Make sure to leave some time so you can visit these homes.
Easy to find is the William Glasner House at 850 Sheridan Rd. Built in 1905, this is a one-story residence situated on the edge of a sloping ravine. Down the street is the Edmund Brigham House at 790 Sheridan Rd. which was designed by Wright in 1908 by Wright for Chicago and North Western Railway executive Edmund Douglass Brigham. The house is characterized on the exterior by low-pitched hipped roofs, broad overhanging eaves and bands of casement windows.
By far the largest concentration of Wright homes are centered around in the Ravine Bluffs Development which was commissioned in 1915 by Frank Lloyd Wright’s attorney, Sherman Booth, Jr. Today you can see six houses built from 1915-16, three concrete subdivision entrance sculptures or monuments and one bridge that was rebuilt in 1985, all designed by Wright. There was a small commuter train station also designed by him a short distance away, but that has since been torn down. The subdivision landscape plan was created by famed landscape architect Jens Jensen.
The houses include the Charles R. Perry House at 272 Sylvan Rd with a gabled roof., the Sherman Booth House at 265 Sylvan Rd., the Lute F. and Daniel Kissam House at 1031 Meadow Rd. with a flat roof, the S.J. Gilfillan/Hollis Root House at 1030 Meadow Rd. with a flat roof, the Ellis/William F. Kier House at 1031 Meadow Rd. with a gabled roof and the Frank B. Finch/William F. Ross House at 1027 Meadow Rd. All but the Booth House share the same basic floor plan.
Wright also designed the 1,700 sq. ft. Sherman Booth Cottage that was built in 1913. It was recently moved by the Glencoe Historical Society from its original location at 239 Franklin Rd. to a public park a short distance away in order to save it from demolition. It is now at the intersection of Franklin, Meadow and Maple Hill Roads.
Immediately south of Glencoe in suburban Winnetka, where there have been a number of new restaurants that opened in the last few years. The downtown area is a fun place to wander and ecplore.
I recently found a great new restaurant, Fred’s Garage. At 574 Green Bay Rd., it is a casual spot that is in the former Fred’s Mobil Station. It has been featured in a number of local publications including the Chicago Tribune. I met suburban friends for lunch. The extensive menu features “elevated American classics” and has some great options from soups, salads, sandwiches, sides and mains.. I loved the salmon burger!
Another recent find is Mino’s Italian Restaurant + Bar located at 985 Green Bay Rd. in Winnetka. This is a popular spot so make sure you make your reservations beforehand. Mino’s is located in a converted 1960s era garage what was converted into an industrial-chic, modern trattoria. It has a large menu of appetizers, pizza and entrees. I really liked the branzino or Mediterranean sea bass with a cauliflower caponata. I enjoyed the experience with local friends and will definitely go back.
Recently opened and a great new find is Aboyer. Chef Michael Lachowicz opened his popular Restaurant Michael in 2005. In 2019 he opened George Trois within his restaurant which was a “14-seat dining room offering multi-course degustation menus and a true tasting experience of modern French cuisine.” Then in early 2019 he decided to close Restaurant Michael and create two new restaurants. “In May 2019, Michael opened Aboyer and Silencieux alongside George Trois, creating three distinct restaurant experiences at one address.”
Aboyer is the more casual brasserie that I enjoyed with local friends. I look forward to going back. Silencieux is a more intimate dining experience and offers a three course prix fixe menu. George Troix is the most elegant and the most expensive of the three and offers a multi-course tasting menu. With Aboyer you get the benefit of the same kitchen but with a less expensive menu.
I always enjoyed Tocco, an upscale Italian restaurant, when it was in Chicago. It has now moved to Winnetka at 507 Chestnut St. The owner, Bruno Abate, is delightful. I recently went back for dinner with local friends and loved seeing the new location. The food, as always, was excellent. I loved the butternut squash ravioli on a chilly fall evening. They also have outdoor patio seating. It is very popular, so make sure to book you reservation beforehand.
Next to Tocco is 501 Local at 501 Chestnut St. It looks like an attractive spot and I will try it on my next visit. I also want to try Avli Restaurant. I have been to their restaurants in the city, but have not tried the original Winnetka location for upscale Greek cuisine. 566 Chestnut St.
I recently went back up for Sunday brunch with a local friend at Pomeroy at 844 Spruce St. Owned by Ballyhoo Hospitality, which owns several of my favorite places in the city of Chicago, it is a s a neighborhood bistro featuring French specialties. In addition to a traditional interior space, they have a large covered patio in the rear along with a small front terrace. I enjoyed the front terrace on a beautiful Sunday. They are open for brunch on weekends plus lunch and dinner.
Fans of the 1990 movie Home Alone starting Maccaulay Culkin should drive by and see the Home Alone house that was featured in the movie. It is located at 671 Lincoln Ave. just northeast of downtown.
You should also stop in for coffee at Hometown Coffee and Juice at 749 Elm St., their second location, and Mitch’s Cookies Dessert Bar & Soda Fountain. Based in Naples, FL they have great sweets including Homer’s Ice Cream which is one of the best in the area. I had to have the peach ice cream on a perfect summer day.
Located south of Winnetka and just north of Evanston, is the village of Wilmette. It has some lovely neighborhood and a nice downtown area near the commuter train station. The CTA’s Purple Line ends at the Linden Station also near downtown. On my list of spots to visit include:
Ridgeview Grill: At the suggestion of a long-time resident, I went for brunch at this casual dining spot at the corner of Ridge Rd. and Lake Ave. that opened in the 1960s. Still owned by the same family, it is the perfect spot for breakfast and lunch. The omelettes are great! They are also open for dinner with a menu of burgers, entrees, pastas and more. 827 Ridge Rd.
After your meal at Ridgeview Grill, head north to Homer’s Ice Cream. They have been making homemade ice cream since 1935! They make a number of flavors, but their peach flavor, made from fresh Georgia peaches, is very popular and available annually from the of May to the end of September. It is well-worth the drive! On my last trip I really enjoyed the pistachio. They also feature sorbets, yogurts, sherbets and a food menu of burgers, sandwiches and salads. It has a colorful shop at 1237 Greenbay Rd.
On my recent trip I went downtown and was very impressed with the large number of new restaurant offerings.
I enjoyed having lunch at St. Roger Abbey’s Organic French Gourmet Patisserie at 1101 Central Ave. I had plans to eating at another spot, but I parked right outside and it looked great. It is run by an order of Catholic nuns. The French nuns were wearing their habits as they served the food. They have a large selection of pastries, cakes, cookies, chocolates, coffee drinks, croissants along with soups and quiches. I thought it was a very unique experience. The products that are made at the Monastery by the Nuns, are made using organic flour, organic sugar and rrganic vanilla extract and many other good ingredients.
Afterwards I met a local friend at Central Station Coffee & Tea, down the street, at 1150 Central Ave. Here you will find a large menu of coffee and tea drinks along with baked goods, pastries, scones, muffins, croissants and salads in a contemporary setting.
On future trips, I would like to try Hotcakes at 1183 Wilmette Ave. for breakfast specialties, Depot Nuevo for Mexican food at 1139 Wilmette Ave. in an historic building, the contemporary Pescadero Seafood & Oyster Bar at 1167 Wilmette Ave., Napolita Pizzeria and Wine Bar at 1126 Central Ave., Pit & Tap for Texas style barbecue at 1168 Wilmette Ave. and Valley Lodge Tavern for sandwiches, soups, salads, burgers and entrees. 1141 Central Ave.
One of the highlights of a trip to Wilmette, is a visit to the beautiful Baha’i Temple at 100 Linden east of downtown and close to Lake Michigan at Sheridan Rd. The temple, with its beautiful domed structure, is one of ten dedicated temples of the Bahá’í Faith, is the oldest surviving Bahá’í House of Worship in the world. You can visit this beautiful structure and gardens. It took many years to build. It was dedicated in 1953 and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.
Wilmette was home to three Frank Lloyd Wright houses. Unfortunately the James B. Irving House at 1320 Isabella has been torn down with a new home built on the site. But the Frank J. Baker House at 507 Lake Ave. is still standing and was being remodeled and preserved when I was there. Built in 1909, this is a 4,800-square-foot Prairie School style house. You can also drive by and see the O’Connor House at 330 Gregory Ave. that was built in 1916. It is another example of the Richard’s American System Bungalow.
I recommend driving west to Glenview to eat at Hackney’s on Harms. Located at 1241 Harms Road, this is the original, rustic location that opened in 1939. It is known for its burgers, onion rings and Reuben sandwich. I loved the outdoor patio on a beautiful fall day, and enjoyed my bison burger with cheese, fries and coleslaw. They have another, more formal location, on 1514 E. Lake Ave. in Glenview.
Valley Lodge Tavern in downtown Wilmette mentioned above is the second location for this Glenview tavern located at 2131 Waukegan Rd. It is an authentic tavern opened in 1969.