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Cheer on the Wildcats with a full belly.
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Where to Eat and Drink in Evanston

The best from Howard Street to Central Street and everywhere in between

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Cheer on the Wildcats with a full belly.
| Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Because it is a suburb, Chicagoans sometimes overlook Evanston as a viable destination for dining out. That’s an error in judgment, as it directly borders Chicago to the north and is easily accessible via car, or even the CTA’s Purple Line.

A charming college town, Evanston is packed with places for cheap eats, from late-night pancakes and eggs to casual spots for lunch and dinner, to coffee shops for working and studying. It also has upscale dining spots for seafood, steaks, and wine. Below, find Eater Chicago’s picks for its essential bars and restaurants.

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Mustard's Last Stand

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A monument to tailgate culture for more than half a century, this tiny hot dog stand just steps from Ryan Field remains a game day destination for teeming hordes of Wildcat adherents hungry for victory and encased meats. The scene is far less chaotic when the team is on the road, transforming Mustard’s Last Stand into a charming escape for a burger on the patio.

Hewn, one of Evanston’s most popular bakeries, has earned such a large following it’s expanding to Lake County. The backbone of Hewn’s offerings is its assortment of hand-shaped, freshly baked bread upon which staff builds various sandwiches. It’s a perfect spot to pick up breakfast, as it offers a plethora of warm pastries and a substantial coffee menu.

Dave's Italian Kitchen

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Once one of the most popular spots in downtown Evanston, Dave’s Italian Kitchen abruptly shuttered in 2016, only to quickly reopen further north on Noyes with a wide selection of pasta, pizza, and traditional chicken dishes. Prices remain low and while the restaurant is no longer BYOB they offer a selection of affordable wines by the glass and bottle as well as beer from Evanston’s Sketchbook Brewing Company.

Soul & Smoke

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Chef D’Andre Carter has made a big splash in Chicago with his rich, smokey barbecue and soul food like shrimp and grits, earning a sizable following that’s spawned virtual outposts and a food hall stall. Now ranked among the area’s top barbecue contenders, Soul & Smoke actually originated in Evanston and patrons can still snag pickup orders from the operation’s out-of-the-way home base. The brisket is world class and a full restaurant is in the works. An expansion is in the works.

Hecky's Barbecue

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More than three years have passed since the death of Hecky Powell, who in 1983 brought his Chicago-style aquarium-smoked meats to suburbanites at his restaurant, Hecky’s Barbecue. His legacy, however, remains and continues to fill the bellies and hearts of Evanston locals with Creole recipes passed down from his mother and grandmother. Hecky’s biggest hits include rib tips, hot links, brisket, and its signature Juneteenth Strawberry Soda.

FONDA cantina

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Veteran chef Michael Lachowicz (Aboyer, George Trois) casts a spotlight on the culinary skill and vast knowledge of his business partners — chef Miguel Escobar, sous chef Carlos Cahue, and wine director Sergio Angel — at Fonda Cantina, a bright and casual bar and restaurant. The chefs draw on their grandmothers’ cooking in Huandacareo in Michoacan and Huitzuco in Guerrero to present tender chile relleno (queso Oaxaca, pintos martajados) in a pool of tomato marjoram sauce, pork rendering-laced sope manteca, and a late-night selection of tacos like al pastor, carne asada, and gobernador.

A stuffed chili pepper on a round red plate.
Fonda houses both a dining room and bar.
Chris Peters/Eater Chicago

Bat 17

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An Evanston classic, Bat 17 has the best qualities of both a deli and a pub. Boasting tons of burgers, sliders, and other sandwiches, the restaurant is known for its massive portions. Bat 17 gives its offerings an extra oomph by emphasizing quality, using free-range meat when possible, and getting its bread from award-winning bakery Bennison’s.

Le Peep

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For breakfast in downtown Evanston, few places have developed the reputation that La Peep has consistently held. A favorite for both NU students and residents alike, the chain’s menu covers the essential breakfast groups, from French toast to skillets and everything in between. Plus, it offers an especially popular pancake of the month, ranging from chocolate chip cookie to pumpkin pecan.

10Q Chicken

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The Korean fried chicken experts at 10Q put out destination-worthy pieces of crispy, juicy poultry for carryout and delivery in Evanston. Customers can also find chicken wings, rice bowls, and more from the owners of BopNGrill.

The Barn Steakhouse

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Found may have closed but you can still feast on Amy Morton’s fare at The Barn, a tribute to her father’s steakhouse empire. Located in a brick stable dating back to 1883, the restaurant offers a traditional fine dining experience with dry-aged steaks, crab cakes, and pecan streusel carrot cake. The covered garden seating provides a perfect place to enjoy the weather or even just watch the rain fall while sipping an Old Fashioned or Manhattan.

NaKorn Urban Thai

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Expand your knowledge of Thai food at NaKorn, which eschews common dishes like pad thai and Panang curry in favor of soft shell crab with mango and braised duck with egg noodles and shiitake mushrooms. The beautifully presented plates are meant to be shared and the friendly staff will guide you through the menu to explain how much to order. Pair your meal with a Bangkok mule featuring housemade kaffir lime-infused vodka.

Alcove Evanston

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This revamped suburban hit — known for more than two decades as Chef’s Station — leans toward fine dining with intricate dinner options such as pan-seared foie gras (caramelized peaches, toasted brioche) and oven-roasted New Zealand rack of lamb. Find it under the Davis Metra stop.

La Cocinita

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Serving Venezuelan-inspired Latin American street food, La Cocinita specializes in arepas — delectable cornmeal patties in crowd-pleasing varieties like El Pabellon (brisket, black beans, sweet plantains) and El Vegano (sweet potato, corn and carrot sofrito, salsa verde, guacamole). All the food is served in carryout containers so you can eat there or enjoy the weather by snagging seats a block west at Fountain Square. La Cocinita also operates a food hall outpost in New Orleans, as well as food trucks in both Illinois and Louisiana.

Bennison's Bakery

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The quintessential Evanston bakery, Bennison’s has been a mainstay just off of the Davis Purple Line stop for more than 80 years. The menu offers nearly every type of pastry imaginable, its most popular offerings include doughnuts, cinnamon rolls, paczki, and danishes. If patrons are looking to shake things up, Bennison’s additionally offers specialty European delicacies such as apfelstrudel, an Austrian take on apple strudel.

James Beard Award-winner Debbie Gold has united with veteran restaurant owner Amy Morton on LeTour, bringing the duo’s memories of France to Evanston. This is a pretty restaurant with a design that will make customers forget they’re in the suburbs. Brunch, lunch, and dinner feature tartines, mussels, smash burgers, and Moroccan dishes like lamb tagine and lamb couscous.

An upscale bar and restaurant space.
LeTour
Kim Kovacik/Eater Chicago

Tapas Barcelona

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A vast menu of tapas encourages groups to sample a medley of Catalonian and Andalusian flavors at this Spanish mainstay, which is best known for crowd-pleasing plates like bacon-wrapped dates, Spanish tortillas, croquetas, and grilled octopus. Consider all of them the perfect pairings for either of the house sangrias or the Spanish margarita, a cross-Atlantic spin on the classic with brandy and lemon juice.

Koi Fine Asian Cuisine & Lounge

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This downtown Evanston spot from Sandy Chen, the owner of Chicago’s Le Sud, offers a wide selection of Chinese cuisine — Mongolian beef, garlic shrimp, and sesame chicken — as well as sushi and a weekend dim sum brunch with bottomless mimosas. Those who like to give back while dining out can call ahead to reserve table 23 and the restaurant will donate 23 percent of the check to a charitable organization.

Edzo's Burger Shop

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Located in the heart of downtown Evanston, Edzo’s is arguably a top burger contender around the Chicago area. The massive burgers are obviously its main attraction, but Edzo’s also offers hot dogs and a wide selection of other sandwiches. The fresh-cut, never frozen fries are popular too — they come in a dozen varieties and are perfect for dipping in a creamy milkshake.

Joy Yee Noodle

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A tried and true hit since 1994, Joy Yee’s suburban outpost is a magnet for students for its colorful bubble tea and pan-Asian menu of noodles, rice dishes, curries, and dumplings. The restaurant also has locations in Chinatown and University Village.

Union Pizzeria

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Housed inside one of Evanston’s coolest restaurant spaces, Union Pizzeria is an aesthetically pleasing spot where locals and visitors inhale piping-hot wood-fired Neapolitan pizzas like lamb sausage with eggplant, Gaeta olives, and rosemary. For squares of Detroit-style pan pizza with perfectly crispy, caramelized edges, fans should head to suburban sister spot Union Squared.

Kabul House Restaurant

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Get a taste of traditional Afghan fare such as juicy beef and chicken kabobs served with rice seasoned with saffron, carrots and raisins, and housemade chutneys. Kabul House offers an extensive selection of vegetarian fare including sweet pumpkin topped with yogurt and a date salad served with pomegranate vinaigrette. Their lunch specials are a great value.

Oceanique

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Chef and owner Mark Grosz and his wife Renée André have been operating this seafood-centric new American restaurant since 1989. Refined starters include Maine lobster with buffalo mozzarella and sea scallops with housemade kimchi. Continue the meal with indulgent entrees such as branzini with eggplant or filet mignon with foie gras. Pair your meal with something off their menu of 300 wines or bring your own bottle on Thursdays when there’s no corkage fee.

Sketchbook Brewing Company

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This microbrewery was founded by former home brewers with a passion for historical and outside-the-box beers and has grown to operate sizable tap rooms in both Evanston and Skokie. Try out an Orange Door double-dry hopped IPA or a Pinky Sweater red rice pilsner while listening to live music.

Campagnola

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Chef Vince DiBattista serves rustic Italian cuisine at this neighborhood restaurant, which has been in operation for more than two decades. Expect seasonal and locally sourced ingredients peppered throughout the menu’s dishes, from ricotta gnocchi with spinach and toasted walnuts to roast duck with polenta and sour cherry mostardo.

Peckish Pig

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Located right on Evanston’s border with Chicago, Peckish Pig offers a very different dining experience than most nearby competitors as it works to elevate the standard brewpub experience. Its menu is impressively extensive, featuring popular items like bacon-wrapped dates and chicken wings but also more adventurous options like coconut curry mussels. Additionally, Peckish Pig offers eight to 10 house-brewed beers at all times, as well as multiple cocktails including a rotating slushy.

Buffalo Joe’s - Howard St.

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Is a Northwestern student who can’t handle spicy foods called a “Mildcat?” Buffalo Joe’s will welcome those tame eaters, though the real fun involves eating the joint’s famous spicy wings. These are fried wings spun with tangy Buffalo-style hot sauce. Very flavorful and not too hot for those who can take it. The waffle fries are also nice touch.

Mustard's Last Stand

A monument to tailgate culture for more than half a century, this tiny hot dog stand just steps from Ryan Field remains a game day destination for teeming hordes of Wildcat adherents hungry for victory and encased meats. The scene is far less chaotic when the team is on the road, transforming Mustard’s Last Stand into a charming escape for a burger on the patio.

Hewn

Hewn, one of Evanston’s most popular bakeries, has earned such a large following it’s expanding to Lake County. The backbone of Hewn’s offerings is its assortment of hand-shaped, freshly baked bread upon which staff builds various sandwiches. It’s a perfect spot to pick up breakfast, as it offers a plethora of warm pastries and a substantial coffee menu.

Dave's Italian Kitchen

Once one of the most popular spots in downtown Evanston, Dave’s Italian Kitchen abruptly shuttered in 2016, only to quickly reopen further north on Noyes with a wide selection of pasta, pizza, and traditional chicken dishes. Prices remain low and while the restaurant is no longer BYOB they offer a selection of affordable wines by the glass and bottle as well as beer from Evanston’s Sketchbook Brewing Company.

Soul & Smoke

Chef D’Andre Carter has made a big splash in Chicago with his rich, smokey barbecue and soul food like shrimp and grits, earning a sizable following that’s spawned virtual outposts and a food hall stall. Now ranked among the area’s top barbecue contenders, Soul & Smoke actually originated in Evanston and patrons can still snag pickup orders from the operation’s out-of-the-way home base. The brisket is world class and a full restaurant is in the works. An expansion is in the works.

Hecky's Barbecue

More than three years have passed since the death of Hecky Powell, who in 1983 brought his Chicago-style aquarium-smoked meats to suburbanites at his restaurant, Hecky’s Barbecue. His legacy, however, remains and continues to fill the bellies and hearts of Evanston locals with Creole recipes passed down from his mother and grandmother. Hecky’s biggest hits include rib tips, hot links, brisket, and its signature Juneteenth Strawberry Soda.

FONDA cantina

Veteran chef Michael Lachowicz (Aboyer, George Trois) casts a spotlight on the culinary skill and vast knowledge of his business partners — chef Miguel Escobar, sous chef Carlos Cahue, and wine director Sergio Angel — at Fonda Cantina, a bright and casual bar and restaurant. The chefs draw on their grandmothers’ cooking in Huandacareo in Michoacan and Huitzuco in Guerrero to present tender chile relleno (queso Oaxaca, pintos martajados) in a pool of tomato marjoram sauce, pork rendering-laced sope manteca, and a late-night selection of tacos like al pastor, carne asada, and gobernador.

A stuffed chili pepper on a round red plate.
Fonda houses both a dining room and bar.
Chris Peters/Eater Chicago

Bat 17

An Evanston classic, Bat 17 has the best qualities of both a deli and a pub. Boasting tons of burgers, sliders, and other sandwiches, the restaurant is known for its massive portions. Bat 17 gives its offerings an extra oomph by emphasizing quality, using free-range meat when possible, and getting its bread from award-winning bakery Bennison’s.

Le Peep

For breakfast in downtown Evanston, few places have developed the reputation that La Peep has consistently held. A favorite for both NU students and residents alike, the chain’s menu covers the essential breakfast groups, from French toast to skillets and everything in between. Plus, it offers an especially popular pancake of the month, ranging from chocolate chip cookie to pumpkin pecan.

10Q Chicken

The Korean fried chicken experts at 10Q put out destination-worthy pieces of crispy, juicy poultry for carryout and delivery in Evanston. Customers can also find chicken wings, rice bowls, and more from the owners of BopNGrill.

The Barn Steakhouse

Found may have closed but you can still feast on Amy Morton’s fare at The Barn, a tribute to her father’s steakhouse empire. Located in a brick stable dating back to 1883, the restaurant offers a traditional fine dining experience with dry-aged steaks, crab cakes, and pecan streusel carrot cake. The covered garden seating provides a perfect place to enjoy the weather or even just watch the rain fall while sipping an Old Fashioned or Manhattan.

NaKorn Urban Thai

Expand your knowledge of Thai food at NaKorn, which eschews common dishes like pad thai and Panang curry in favor of soft shell crab with mango and braised duck with egg noodles and shiitake mushrooms. The beautifully presented plates are meant to be shared and the friendly staff will guide you through the menu to explain how much to order. Pair your meal with a Bangkok mule featuring housemade kaffir lime-infused vodka.

Alcove Evanston

This revamped suburban hit — known for more than two decades as Chef’s Station — leans toward fine dining with intricate dinner options such as pan-seared foie gras (caramelized peaches, toasted brioche) and oven-roasted New Zealand rack of lamb. Find it under the Davis Metra stop.

La Cocinita

Serving Venezuelan-inspired Latin American street food, La Cocinita specializes in arepas — delectable cornmeal patties in crowd-pleasing varieties like El Pabellon (brisket, black beans, sweet plantains) and El Vegano (sweet potato, corn and carrot sofrito, salsa verde, guacamole). All the food is served in carryout containers so you can eat there or enjoy the weather by snagging seats a block west at Fountain Square. La Cocinita also operates a food hall outpost in New Orleans, as well as food trucks in both Illinois and Louisiana.

Bennison's Bakery

The quintessential Evanston bakery, Bennison’s has been a mainstay just off of the Davis Purple Line stop for more than 80 years. The menu offers nearly every type of pastry imaginable, its most popular offerings include doughnuts, cinnamon rolls, paczki, and danishes. If patrons are looking to shake things up, Bennison’s additionally offers specialty European delicacies such as apfelstrudel, an Austrian take on apple strudel.

LeTour

James Beard Award-winner Debbie Gold has united with veteran restaurant owner Amy Morton on LeTour, bringing the duo’s memories of France to Evanston. This is a pretty restaurant with a design that will make customers forget they’re in the suburbs. Brunch, lunch, and dinner feature tartines, mussels, smash burgers, and Moroccan dishes like lamb tagine and lamb couscous.

An upscale bar and restaurant space.
LeTour
Kim Kovacik/Eater Chicago

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Tapas Barcelona

A vast menu of tapas encourages groups to sample a medley of Catalonian and Andalusian flavors at this Spanish mainstay, which is best known for crowd-pleasing plates like bacon-wrapped dates, Spanish tortillas, croquetas, and grilled octopus. Consider all of them the perfect pairings for either of the house sangrias or the Spanish margarita, a cross-Atlantic spin on the classic with brandy and lemon juice.

Koi Fine Asian Cuisine & Lounge

This downtown Evanston spot from Sandy Chen, the owner of Chicago’s Le Sud, offers a wide selection of Chinese cuisine — Mongolian beef, garlic shrimp, and sesame chicken — as well as sushi and a weekend dim sum brunch with bottomless mimosas. Those who like to give back while dining out can call ahead to reserve table 23 and the restaurant will donate 23 percent of the check to a charitable organization.

Edzo's Burger Shop

Located in the heart of downtown Evanston, Edzo’s is arguably a top burger contender around the Chicago area. The massive burgers are obviously its main attraction, but Edzo’s also offers hot dogs and a wide selection of other sandwiches. The fresh-cut, never frozen fries are popular too — they come in a dozen varieties and are perfect for dipping in a creamy milkshake.

Joy Yee Noodle

A tried and true hit since 1994, Joy Yee’s suburban outpost is a magnet for students for its colorful bubble tea and pan-Asian menu of noodles, rice dishes, curries, and dumplings. The restaurant also has locations in Chinatown and University Village.

Union Pizzeria

Housed inside one of Evanston’s coolest restaurant spaces, Union Pizzeria is an aesthetically pleasing spot where locals and visitors inhale piping-hot wood-fired Neapolitan pizzas like lamb sausage with eggplant, Gaeta olives, and rosemary. For squares of Detroit-style pan pizza with perfectly crispy, caramelized edges, fans should head to suburban sister spot Union Squared.

Kabul House Restaurant

Get a taste of traditional Afghan fare such as juicy beef and chicken kabobs served with rice seasoned with saffron, carrots and raisins, and housemade chutneys. Kabul House offers an extensive selection of vegetarian fare including sweet pumpkin topped with yogurt and a date salad served with pomegranate vinaigrette. Their lunch specials are a great value.

Oceanique

Chef and owner Mark Grosz and his wife Renée André have been operating this seafood-centric new American restaurant since 1989. Refined starters include Maine lobster with buffalo mozzarella and sea scallops with housemade kimchi. Continue the meal with indulgent entrees such as branzini with eggplant or filet mignon with foie gras. Pair your meal with something off their menu of 300 wines or bring your own bottle on Thursdays when there’s no corkage fee.

Sketchbook Brewing Company

This microbrewery was founded by former home brewers with a passion for historical and outside-the-box beers and has grown to operate sizable tap rooms in both Evanston and Skokie. Try out an Orange Door double-dry hopped IPA or a Pinky Sweater red rice pilsner while listening to live music.

Campagnola

Chef Vince DiBattista serves rustic Italian cuisine at this neighborhood restaurant, which has been in operation for more than two decades. Expect seasonal and locally sourced ingredients peppered throughout the menu’s dishes, from ricotta gnocchi with spinach and toasted walnuts to roast duck with polenta and sour cherry mostardo.

Peckish Pig

Located right on Evanston’s border with Chicago, Peckish Pig offers a very different dining experience than most nearby competitors as it works to elevate the standard brewpub experience. Its menu is impressively extensive, featuring popular items like bacon-wrapped dates and chicken wings but also more adventurous options like coconut curry mussels. Additionally, Peckish Pig offers eight to 10 house-brewed beers at all times, as well as multiple cocktails including a rotating slushy.

Buffalo Joe’s - Howard St.

Is a Northwestern student who can’t handle spicy foods called a “Mildcat?” Buffalo Joe’s will welcome those tame eaters, though the real fun involves eating the joint’s famous spicy wings. These are fried wings spun with tangy Buffalo-style hot sauce. Very flavorful and not too hot for those who can take it. The waffle fries are also nice touch.

Related Maps