For the fourth year running, Tomate Fresh Kitchen was voted Evanston’s best restaurant.
It’s a remarkable feat for the small establishment, located at 914 ½ Noyes Street, especially when you consider that the business is carry out and delivery with no dine-in option.
With what its website describes as “gourmet street food” based in Latin American cuisine, Tomate has an ironclad grip on the Northwestern student body that is truly unmatched. Never was this more apparent than in the early months of 2021, when the restaurant temporarily closed and left a burrito-shaped hole in many of our hearts. Since its reopening, Tomate regulars and curious newcomers alike have enjoyed the wide variety of delectable fillings in their tacos, gorditas and burritos.
For me, the burritos are where Tomate stands apart. They’re each around $8, an absolute steal for the quality and quantity of food you receive. Each filling I’ve tried, from the chicken tinga to the carnitas to the sweet potato, has been top notch. While I’m not vegetarian, their vegetarian options are so good I often opt for those. The guacamole is also some of the best around, so spending the extra $1 for that is totally worth it.
My only complaint? It closes early, shutting its pickup window at 6 p.m. Still, that doesn’t stop Tomate from deserving the top spot among Evanston restaurants.
— Emily Sakai
Walking into Ovo Frito Café is like stepping into an egg yolk. You are immediately greeted by chamomile yellow and sunkissed orange walls. Colorful paintings of eggs adorn the space. In one landscape painting, sunny-side up eggs dangle from tree branches, mirroring Christmas ornaments.
Husband Roberto Flores and wife Zinnia Iglesias opened the cafe, located at 1936 Maple Ave., back in 2017. Ovo Frito, which means “fried egg” in Portuguese, has quickly become a local favorite, taking the brunch slot in 2020’s Best of Evanston as well.
The decor isn't the only thing that stands out. The brunch options are also (egg)cellent, whether you’re craving something savory or sweet. Ovo Frito offers an assortment of items on their menu: fluffy omelets, spicy chilaquiles and veggie bowls.
For my brunch, I ordered a hot coffee and the Viva La France, a French toast stack layered with fresh bananas, tangy strawberries and glistening vanilla cream.
In the cafe, a soft chatter of conversation hums in the air as customers share food and laughter. At Ovo Frito, you don’t just order specials — you feel special.
Sunny side up, scrambled, or poached. No matter how you like your eggs, Ovo Frito is a paradise for brunch fanatics.
- Jessica Ma
It’s midnight on a Saturday, and you and your friends have worked up an appetite. Just a six-minute walk from the Foster CTA station, Chicken Shack will satisfy all of your late-night cravings.
While most other Evanston businesses are closed at this time, Chicken Shack remains open until 12:30 a.m. from Wednesday through Saturday, 12 a.m. on Monday and Tuesday and 8 p.m. on Sunday. It also offers $4 delivery, so on-campus residents don’t have to trek all the way to Ridge Avenue to experience its mouthwatering menu. One busy weeknight, I ordered delivery to my dorm. Within 30 minutes, I was enjoying Chicken Shack’s crispy and juicy chicken tenders and fluffy buttermilk biscuits.
There is truly something for every meat lover on Chicken Shack’s menu, from fried fish to rib tips, with coleslaw or onion rings on the side. Students can also take advantage of the budget-friendly “bargain buckets” that feed a crowd for a reasonable price.
Northwestern students aren’t the only fans of Chicken Shack, as the Evanston favorite has been featured in the Huffington Post and ranked best fried chicken spot in the state by Mashed. Chicken Shack has already celebrated 32 years in Evanston, and voters have been happy to have it during all their late nights.
- Caitlin Smith
Some could say I’m a Pad Thai enthusiast, while others might call me obsessed — either way, Cozy’s containers of noodles, veggies and tofu stir-fried in a special sauce have gotten me through mid-quarter slumps on more than one occasion.
Located just steps beyond Bennison’s Bakery, the near-thirty minute trek to Davis Street can be daunting for North Campus residents and out of the question amid busy schedules. Add snow and below freezing temperatures, and the extra blocks begin to add up.
Thanks to an easy online ordering platform for delivery or pick up (and the promise of a free appetizer for orders over $25), foul weather is not a reason to keep you from a flavorful bowl of spicy Red Curry or Pad Woon Sen. Ordering takeout from Cozy Noodles and Rice combines the three pillars of good food: comfort, speed and cost. With both a regular and gluten-free menu and plenty of vegetarian dishes, there are options to accommodate all eaters.
Once a week my freshman year, I treated myself to my favorite noodle entree. Never did I wait more than 30 minutes for arrival and the price fit neatly into my college budget. I still associate my Pad Thai deliveries with making friends in the Lincoln study room and learning to live away from home. Whether in my dorm or their dining room decked out with plaques of kitschy quotes and PEZ dispensers, the taste of Cozy’s crispy tofu will always be synonymous with finding my place at NU.
– Nixie Strazza
From the outside, Bennison’s Bakery looks timeless. The burgundy awning and ‘BAKERY’ sign, edged with lightbulbs like a movie theater billboard, makes the storefront feel like a fixture of the community. Inside, it gives off the same air of reassuring permanence with a side of sugar and butter.
Founded in 1938, Bennison’s was passed from Larry Bennison to Guy Downer in 1967. Three generations of Downers have worked in the store. I’ll admit, I’m much newer to the bakery. I’ve only been twice, but the store’s dizzying array of treats all but ensures I’ll return. I made plans to meet with a friend there once and then spent a solid half hour salivating over their website at about 1 a.m. that night.
When you walk in, miniature cookies line shelves near the door. Lusciously decorated cakes sit one case over. The croissants are crisp, buttery and often sold out. Paczki, Polish donuts traditionally eaten on Fat Tuesday, contain fillings in flavors ranging from apricot to chocolate praline.
Once you’re inside, you can browse the pastries, forget about the week you’ve had and devote yourself to choosing between a plum- or cheese-flavored paczki for a brief moment of bliss.
– Aviva Becky
If you take just one step into Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria, the aroma of hot cheese, sauce and crust fresh out of the oven becomes overwhelming. Welcome to Lou’s — arguably the best deep dish in the Chicago area.
The first Lou Malnati’s location opened on March 17, 1971 in Lincolnwood. With a total of 58 locations in the Chicago area alone, Lou’s is the place to enjoy the ultimate Chicago delicacy: deep dish pizza. Its Sherman Avenue location is a smaller version of the eatery, with the same welcoming atmosphere as the original location.
The pizzeria offers build-your-own pizzas, either deep dish or thin crust, and provides gluten free options. In addition to their famous pies, they also make pasta dishes, Italian beef sandwiches and delicious appetizers.
To top off your dining experience, you can try their cannoli dip served with housemade cinnamon sugar tortilla chips or their rich tiramisu for dessert.
All cheesiness aside, for me, Lou Malnati’s was a staple growing up in Chicago.
– Selena Kuznikov
Bat 17 is the prime example of getting what you pay for. The prices are high enough to make you faint, but the food’s high quality and taste satisfies enough to forget your empty pocket.
As a lonely Fall Quarter freshman without friends or support, I used to go to Bat 17 every Saturday to watch college football games. I loved trying the various kinds of sandwiches and appetizers they had, especially when cheering on our then-shockingly good Northwestern football team. I would save up my money during the week and only eat in dining halls on weekdays so I could afford to go to Bat 17 on Saturdays.
If you’re in the mood for beef, I recommend any burger, as they’re all great. The Ricky-Bobby Burger, whose hot sauce and pepper jack cheese gives it a flavorful kick, is usually my go-to. If I’m ever incredibly hungry, I spring for The Terminator, which is the equivalent of two full burgers stacked atop each other. One of my most cherished memories of my first year was downing a Terminator while watching NU beat Michigan State en route to the Big Ten title game. If you’re in the mood for chicken, I recommend Blue Lightning, a spicy chicken sandwich similar to the Ricky-Bobby Burger.
Even though my freshman fall is far behind me, I still relish the chances I get to eat at Bat 17 — it’s a place you have to try.
- Sterling Ortiz
You’re a vegetarian at a restaurant with your omnivorous friends and the only real vegetarian item on the menu is a salad or a downgraded alternative version of a meat-filled dish. I get it — I’ve been there, as a fellow vegetarian myself. Head to Blind Faith Cafe to see that vegetarian food can be more than rabbit food.
Located at the heart of the Main-Dempster Mile, the restaurant is well worth the trek. You’re surrounded by warm, welcoming employees and your favorite cuisines made vegetarian.
Craving something spicy? Go for the vegan Mexican breakfast or the breakfast burrito. How about Asian cuisine? Say hello to the Mongolian stir-fry or the Thai peanut noodles. Want to travel to Europe from the comfort of your wooden restaurant chair? Get the Mediterranean omelette or the pesto pasta primavera.
Of course, if salads are your thing, you’re in for a treat. Blind Faith Cafe offers a wide variety that deviates from the conventional lettuce and tomatoes — from the Thai noodle salad to the Jerusalem lentil salad or Mediterranean rice salad, your salads don’t have to be green and unoriginal if you don’t want them to be.
The options are endless and animal-friendly. No longer do you need to spend 15 minutes interrogating the server about their non-existent vegetarian options — you’re in control of what you eat at Blind Faith Cafe.
– Angeli Mittal
Whether you’re looking for a caffeinated pick-me-up to sustain you through long study sessions or a sweet snack to brighten your day, Coffee Lab & Roasters is there to help.
Located on Noyes Street, Coffee Lab is the perfect stop for when you’re on North Campus and don’t want to make the trek downtown. Its top-tier quality and convenience has kept caffeine addicts coming back year after year — this is its fourth Best of Evanston win.
Since 2010, this Asian- and LGBTQ-owned independent coffee shop has been serving up quality beverages and food. Coffee Lab prides itself on its fresh roasted specialty pour-over coffee, and their beans are roasted every week by a local small batch roaster.
With its simplistic wooden style, Coffee Lab has a homey environment that is perfect whether you want a place to work, catch up with friends or simply sit alone with your thoughts.
Don’t wait too late in the day — snacks sell out and seats fill up early because Coffee Lab is truly Evanston’s best.
- Kara Peeler
Picture this: it’s your first date, and you’re really nervous. You’re not sure where to go, but you want a fun atmosphere where the conversation flows naturally. With its plentiful plates and colorful atmosphere, Tapas Barcelona is the place for you.
Tapas Barcelona’s variety of tasty small plates and delicious drinks is the main event. Eating at Tapas is a fantastic way to intimately get to know your partner’s palate, because you’re encouraged to order a multitude of things and share. You can’t get just one thing. If you’re looking for somewhere to start, I recommend the crispy patatas bravas with spicy tomato sauce and traditional paellas.
Tapas’s cozy atmosphere and decorations provide for some great conversation starters, and the Spanish flair sets the experience apart from other restaurants in the Evanston area. Another plus? The restaurant’s Chicago Avenue location means you can easily walk there from anywhere around Northwestern’s Evanston Campus, a fantastic opportunity to offer your date your jacket when they’re cold.
– Nicole Markus
From delectable mussels to some genuinely out-of-this-world mac and cheese, Farmhouse has everything you need to please little ones and adults alike.
The dark wooden decor and mix of high-top and low booth seating create an atmosphere perfect for out-of-town families looking for a memorable meal or for locals on a regular Tuesday night when no one in the family has the energy to cook. The staff are friendly and accommodating, and prices are reasonable for the quality and service.
At Farmhouse, families have the choice to dine as casual or as nice as they’d prefer, with entrees from tuna melts to burgers to salads to farro risotto. Farmhouse offers brunch, lunch, dinner and a gluten-free menu.
The restaurant’s convenient location across from Evanston Public Library makes it the perfect spot to walk to after a day of roaming the shops. Settle in with your loved ones for a comforting meal that tastes like home.
– Wendy Klunk
Walk past Celtic Knot Public House any night of the week and you’re more than likely to hear music pouring out the front door. The sound of folk, blues and Irish tunes fill the air inside the establishment and make their way out onto the street. For some, the songs act as background noise as they engage in a conversation at the bar. Others get lost in the rhythm, swaying to the beat while sipping on a Guinness with foam dripping down the sides of the frosty glass.
Celtic Knot is more than a bar. It’s a gathering place for friends and family, a spot for coworkers to catch up and a lively date night venue. The drink menu lists over a dozen beer and cider options, as well as wine and cocktails. You can also bring Celtic Knot home with you — the bar offers a jug of its Knotty Cocktail to go.
And as for the food? You can munch on everything from deep-fried pickle chips to bacon-wrapped dates, or chow down on Shepherd's Pie and Boston Corned Beef and Cabbage. But before you get lost in the pools of gravy and crunchy French fries, don’t overlook the soups — nothing cures a bad day like a bucket of Celtic Knot’s Pea Wack.
- Zoe Malin
Loaded snack aisles, fun pasta varieties and rotating seasonal options define Evanston’s Trader Joe’s, a hotspot for fresh produce and unique ingredients. Its farmers-market-esque charm and welcoming staff combine to give the grocery store a third Best of Evanston win.
Trader Joe’s assortment of cheeses, nuts and smoked meats provide an excellent starting point for those looking to piece together a picnic on the Lakefill. It’s a destination for students and residents on the hunt for quality options on a budget. From heavenly Garlic Naan Crackers to delectable cookie butter, Trader Joe's provides something new at every turn.
In the dead of winter, blooming roses, tulips and hydrangeas are some perfect additions to sprucing up any indoor space. Trader Joe’s provides these for a steal — sometimes as low as $3.99 a bunch. The classic paper bag also doubles as a nice bouquet wrap.
For late night munchies, look no further. The wide array of options from the frozen aisle includes pizza, mini vegetable samosas, cheese enchiladas and more, satisfying any possible craving.
We can’t forget the seasonal standouts. Candy Cane Joe-Joe’s define the store’s holiday season, and Valentine’s Day brings the iconic Iced Raspberry and Cream Cheese Danish Strip. The store stocks fun goodies for any and every occasion.
No doubt about it —Trader Joe’s will provide something to brighten your life. It’s just a matter of making the trek, and it’ll be worth it.
– Joanna Hou
Just two weeks ago, I turned 21. For college students across the nation, that marks a major milestone: buying your first legal drink. And I knew exactly where I was headed: D&D Finer Foods, nestled in the heart of Noyes Street.
Aside from its proximity to my apartment — a mere five-minute walk — D&D’s homey atmosphere, options for fresh-cooked meals and array of groceries all make it a perfect one-stop shop. As one of my favorite Evanston institutions, it only made sense that I paid them a visit on my 21st birthday.
That chilly afternoon, I was excited to peruse my options. Between the large range of craft beers, the wine variety and the well-stocked liquor shelves, I knew I had a difficult decision ahead of me.
I ended up leaving with a bottle of white wine that rang up under $10. I’m living on a college budget, so I wasn’t looking to drop too much. But D&D’s accommodates all sorts of tastes and budgets and is home to brands and brews I’ve never seen before.
The store’s proximity to other perennial Best of Evanston winners such as Tomate Fresh Kitchen and Coffee Lab means a trip down Noyes Street hits three of the central food groups of collegiate life: coffee, burritos and alcoholic beverages. But out of the three, the versatility of D&D’s and overall atmosphere will always make it stand out to me.
D&D’s will hold a fond place in my memories as I look back on my time at Northwestern. Take a trip to Noyes and, more than likely, it’ll find a place in your heart too.
- Jacob Fulton
It’s no secret that college students love their bubble tea. Whether looking for some afternoon caffeine or an after-dinner treat, Northwestern students have frequented Evanston boba spots for years. In July 2021, Happy Lemon — creator of the salted cheese topping — opened on Chicago Avenue to offer students a new (and saltier) option to satisfy their cravings.
In 1991, the Yummy Town Group brought bubble tea from Taiwan to Mainland China and Hong Kong. Seven years later, the company founded Happy Lemon, and invented Rock Salt Cheese Tea — a cream cheese, heavy cream, or milk topping with rock salt.
Happy Lemon offers a fully customizable experience with five ice and sugar level options, and over 20 topping selections. I will warn you — don’t go to Happy Lemon if you’re feeling overwhelmed. There’s milk tea, brewed tea, smoothies, fruit tea and various versions of lemon, but choosing a tea is just the tip of the iceberg. My favorites are the classic Honey Jasmine Green Tea and the Passionfruit Green Tea (without jelly).
Next time you’re in the mood to violently stab a cup with an oversized straw, make your way down Chicago Avenue to Happy Lemon: Evanston’s best new business.
- Avani Kalra
Amid the Chicago winter, it’s fair to say that sunlight is lacking, which raises quite an issue if you want to grow your own garden. For all of the nature lovers who aspire to bring the outdoors inside, Plant Shop Evanston is the place to go.
Plant Shop Evanston has a variety of options in its store, ranging from succulents, cacti and flowers to all-purpose liquid, maxi foliar and African violet fertilizers. While it has prepackaged bowls and pots available for purchase, customers are also welcome to bring their own vessels. What could be a more sustainable way to upcycle a finished candle jar or unused mug?
Sustainability is an essential part of Plant Shop Evanston’s business. With a wide selection of reusable pots and jars, as well as a plethora of plant options, the store sheds light on ways to converge environmental responsibility and natural beauty.
Plant Shop Evanston is open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends.
– Cleo Kanter
Looking for a fresh new fit? Affordable accessories? A last minute formal dress? Look no further than Crossroads Trading, a clothing resale store located in the heart of Downtown Evanston.
With more than 30 locations across the United States, Crossroads sells new and used clothes. One of three stores in the Chicago area, the Evanston location is at 1730 Sherman Ave. and open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily.
For those looking to shop, Crossroads offers trendy looks. At the store, you can find matching rings for you and your best friend or perfectly worn Levis.
As a second-hand retailer, the store commits to sustainability in fashion. By selling and shopping at Crossroads, customers help keep clothes out of the landfill.
When trading at Crossroads, you’ll either receive store credit or cash. The business pays 50% in credit of the price the items are sold in the store and 30% in cash. Crossroads looks for clothes that are clean, current and in good condition. Look to the selling guide for more information.
Customers should only bring laundered items to sell at the store. Store employees evaluate and price clothing on the spot, and sellers will receive payment right away. You must be 18 years old, or accompanied by an adult with a valid photo ID to sell.
Follow the Chicago area stores on Instagram at @crossroads_midwest, and don’t be afraid to stop in. You’re more than likely to find something spectacular.
– Olivia Alexander
As compensation for the dumpster fire that is the quarter system’s unending barrage of exams, Northwestern gave us the Lakefill.
Composed of 74 acres of reclaimed underwater land, the Lakefill was built to expand NU’s physical footprint. Today, it serves as a respite and community nexus for frazzled, burnt-out students. It is a foundational element of NU student culture: NorthwesternCore simply wouldn’t be complete without hammocks decorating each Lakefill tree the second the weather passes 60 degrees.
The Lakefill was voted best place to see a good view this year, and for good reason. From the southernmost point of the Lakefill peninsula, you can see an expansive view of the Chicago lakeshore. Catch ethereal sunsets, beautiful sunrises and everything in between. Walk a few steps north, and you’ll get an unbeatable angle of Lake Michigan.
From anxiety-soothing scenic strolls to first dates made less awkward by picturesque scenery, the Lakefill suits all occasions — probably why it absolutely dunked on all other nominations in its category this year.
My top Lakefill recommendations: midnight picnics, sunrise walks and crying in public — not in a depressing way, but in a tragically scenic coming-of-age movie way.
- Kalina Pierga
Main Library is a popular study spot for Northwestern students due to its central location on campus.
If it’s sunny but not quite warm enough to sit outside, find a seat by a window and enjoy the blue skies from the comfort of the Periodicals Room. There’s no better way to brighten up a study day than by surrounding yourself with plants and sunlight. The Periodicals are quiet, perfect for reading and concentrating. If you’re not looking for a quiet section, the 1South space is a great place to collaborate on group projects or to pretend you’re studying while you catch up with friends.
Grab a coffee at Brewbike, the student-run cafe on the second floor. Stop by The Writing Place to have a peer consultant look over your paper. You can even reserve a private study room to take an exam or collaborate with other students.
Main Library has a place for everyone, whether you’re planning to cram for a midterm or meet with a study group.
– Ilana Hutzler
There is one phrase that encompasses how I feel about Campus Gear, and I quote from the words of Noah Coffman at Inside NU: “HAT: Hat, hat hat hat.”
Do you want a Northwestern and Illinois house divided hat? Campus Gear has that. Do you want an NU and Nebraska house divided hat, so you can slander your Nebraska friends by saying that NU is the real NU, and Nebraska is just UNL? Campus Gear has that. Are you an aspiring engineer and want to show your commitment to the field with an NU and MIT house divided hat? Campus Gear also has that.
If you don’t like hats, don’t worry, because Campus Gear can hook you up with many other items. NU lanyards give a nice contrast with a button-down or sensible blouse for future white-collar workers. For sports fanatics like myself, I highly recommend one of their football jerseys, since they’re so easy to wear.
However you want to show purple pride, you are sure to find something to your liking on Campus Gear’s mile-high shelves.
- Sterling Ortiz
I’ll admit it — I let my mom cut my hair in quarantine. It was June 2020, I was getting desperate and a trip to the salon didn’t seem possible any time soon. She watched a YouTube video, chopped off a couple of inches and I didn’t think anything of it.
But when I returned to Evanston that September, I walked straight into Ergo Salon & Spa to save my curls.
Ergo offers haircuts for those of all ages, as well as a range of color and styling services. You can also treat yourself to a deep conditioning or keratin treatment, and shop for an array of shampoos, conditioners, gels and creams.
The staff offers advice when you need it, as well as an extra boost of encouragement if you’re contemplating a big change — I’ve watched customers enter the salon tentative about dying their hair shades of blue and teal, but walk out as confident as ever.
– Zoe Malin
When my mom came to visit me at school for the first time, she took one look at my sloppy, self-done manicure and demanded that we get mani-pedis together.
With its convenient location on Church Street, Dazzle Nails was the perfect option for mother-daughter bonding over manicures. Not only is the staff friendly, but the interior is also gorgeous, with bursts of color and sparkles that greet customers as soon as they walk through the doors. The salon is certainly designed with the student body in mind, offering a 10% discount for any Wildcard holder.
When Evanston residents are in need of anything from a simple manicure to elaborate nail designs, Dazzle Nails is a consistent favorite. The salon offers classic manicures, powder dip nails, gel nails, pedicures and even foot massages.
As I was walking past Dazzle Nails, I saw two of my close friends walk out the door and they showed me their freshly painted nails. From my own mother to my best friends, everyone loves Dazzle.
- Jocelyn Mintz
As one of the few branded clothing stores in Evanston, it’s hard not to recognize the loss of Urban Outfitters — especially its sale section. Even though I rarely visited, it was comforting to know I had at least one clothing store in Evanston to fall back on, whether it was for a funky Dillo Day outfit or one of their seamless basics.
Despite my initial shock at the news, I’ll freely admit I honestly do not care about Urban’s closure. It could be the fact I probably went in twice in my three years here. Maybe it’s my distaste towards the fast fashion industry as a whole, or the fact I maybe fit into a third of their clothes. What about the ludicrous prices? Probably all of the above.
Still, I get the hype. The hipster decor, kitschy home accessories and allure of buying into the latest trends have drawn me into the store time and time again. I’d be a liar if I didn’t acknowledge I do occasionally peruse their website.
I also recognize clothing store choices are slim in Evanston, especially for a college student looking for something on a time crunch. If you’re still looking for your Urban fix, might I suggest the (much cheaper) Urban Outfitters surplus store, located not too far from the Fullerton CTA station.
– Meher Yeda
After a prolonged pandemic shutdown, Italian restaurant Terra & Vine will officially close its doors at the end of the month.
Known for its creamy pesto pasta and Sicilian-style pizza, the Maple Avenue location exemplified college elegance. A seat at its long leather booth was always a signifier of a special occasion — and an opportunity for a side of crispy brussels sprouts. Its vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free menus meant those with allergens could enjoy a delicious meal alongside unrestricted eaters with no compromise of quality.
When friends and family visited, Terra & Vine was my go-to restaurant. It was over a plate of their Pasta Verdura that I enjoyed time with my parents and roommate during Family Weekend. I’ll look back on those memories — tinted by the warm glow of the pizza oven — with fondness and miss the veggie pasta in which I indulged.