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The lakefront community of Evanston, Illinois is one of the most vibrant and populous of the Chicago suburbs, but it wasn't always that way. Beginning in the 1840s, Evanston was a very sparsely settled rural village, largely inhabited by European immigrants from Germany and Holland, who were soon joined by folks transplanted from upstate New York. Evanston remained a quiet community until the mid 1850s, when Northwestern University opened its doors, essentially putting the town on the map.
Evanston's population started to spike directly following the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, as many of Chicago's wealthy elites established homes in the nearby suburb while the city rebuilt after the blaze. Many decided to stay permanently, fearing that the city was still vulnerable to future fires. Evanston got a further boost in 1908, when the Chicago rapid transit system extended track to Central Street in construction of what is now known as the Purple Line (formerly, the Evanston Line). The development of several large apartment buildings attracted sizeable immigrant populations to the area, including thousands of Polish and Eastern European laborers and many Haitians and Jamaicans.
By the mid-20th century, Evanston had emerged as one of the most multicultural middle class communities in Chicagoland. Interestingly, the entire town stayed alcohol-free until 1972, as Northwestern's charter (which predated the town's incorporation) mandated that there be a "dry" four-mile radius surrounding the university. In fact, the first liquor store wasn't opened until 1984. But when the no alcohol law was dropped in the early '70s, Evanston quickly emerged as one of the region's premier dining and cultural destinations.
If you're looking for a bit of outdoor activity in Evanston, the first stop you'll want to make is at one of the lakefront town's many public beaches. A large portion of Evanston's shoreline property is publicly owned and is occupied by several different parks. Another big chunk of the waterfront belongs to the Northwestern University's Evanston campus. The most popular beach in town is Lighthouse Beach (Central St and Sheridan Rd, 847-492-7082), which is marked by and named after the large lighthouse that has since become the town's logo. The beach is located in a small cove that swarms with boaters, fishers and other dedicated beach-goers early in the morning during summer's peak. The shady lawn nearby is also a popular picnic spot for Evanston locals. Another favorite locale for swimming and sunbathing is Lee Street Beach (Lee St and Lake Shore Blvd, 847-492-7082), which is situated at the edge of Elliot Park. The Evanston Dog Beach (Church St and Sheridan Rd, 847-492-7082) is also a big draw for pet owners, providing a place for pooches to swim and play on the beach, leash free for a small fee ($40 for the entire season).
Getting away from the beach (but not too far), James Park (Oakton St and Dodge Ave) is one of Evanston's most useful public areas for town-sponsored sports and recreational activities. The park features eight baseball and softball fields, six tennis courts, five soccer fields, a basketball court and a children's playground. But if you're on the other side of Evanston, you might prefer to stop off at Chandler and Leahy parks, which abut the Jans Community Golf Course, just a block south of the CTA's Central Street Purple Line station. At Leahy Park there are four tennis courts, a baseball diamond, and a playground, while across the street at Chandler Park you can play some street ball at the outdoor basketball court.
Some Evanston parks escape the exciting beach and sporting scene in lieu of a more serene setting. Tucked away on a quiet street corner, Merrick Rose Garden (Oak and Lake, 847-866-2900) is a peaceful little slice of heaven - the perfect place for a small wedding or just cuddling on a bench with your sweetheart. The skillfully landscaped garden features hundreds of beautiful rose bushes, as well as the historic Fountain Square Centennial Fountain that makes for a lovely and soothing soundtrack to the tranquil backdrop. We recommend visiting at night when the rosebushes and fountain are subtly lit to create a gentle yet dramatic effect.
The golf lover in the family will be right at home in Evanston, as the city is host to a world-class golf course right in the middle of town. The Peter N. Jans Community Golf Course (1031 Central St, 847-475-9173) is located on Central Street and it features excellent fairways and greens, but it also attracts golfers because of its low prices. The golf course is run as a non-profit by the Evanston/Wilmette Golf Course Association, which manages to keep the prices down, making it one of the most affordable courses in the Chicagoland area. The 18-hole course has a par 60 executive layout, and it is recommended that you call ahead to make tee-time reservations at least a week in advance to ensure a spot.
As in any Chicago suburb, Evanston has a diverse spectrum of residential real estate options. However, the lakefront location and prestigious Northwestern University give this northern Chicago town something special that has attracted homebuyers for over a century.
Evanston, Illinois is considered a fairly well-to-do community that holds a higher standard of living than your average town. Large single-family houses rising from green grass lots are commonplace here. In fact, there are Evanston neighborhoods where every home is as big as a mansion. Residential streets are shaded by a canopy of towering trees and individual properties boast beautifully landscaped yards, both front and back. The variety of architectural styles in Evanston is one of the reasons the area is so appealing. No cookie-cutter subdivisions here, each block is different from the next. Homebuyers will discover everything from traditional homes to modern designs along these leafy, sidewalk-lined avenues. Sometimes the trickiest part for potential residents is narrowing it down to the place you like the best!
Of course, price is often a good decider when buying real estate-no matter what part of Illinois you're looking in. In Evanston, the home values tend to be more upmarket, but there are plenty of very nice brick ranches, split-levels, and mid-century residences for under $350,000. These homes may not have state-of-the-art amenities or granite kitchen countertops, but they are great properties, especially for first-time buyers and young families, especially because most of the real estate in Evanston offers private yards and garages. Not to mention you'd be living in one of the most desirable locations in the state.
On the other hand, if you are a homebuyer with a million-dollar+ budget, you are apt to find quite a few breathtaking properties that fit the bill. Sprawling houses, sometimes with as many as seven or eight bedrooms, come in every shape and style in Evanston. Get classic floor plans with pillared entranceways and hardwood staircases, or go for the more contemporary look with open layouts and skylights. The middle of the road in Evanston real estate is gorgeous older homes with vintage charm and unique designs, and new construction or renovated residences with upgraded features and interior finishes. These types of houses are generally listed for between $550,000 and $999,000.
There is also a big market for condominiums and townhouses in Evanston. These lower maintenance options are ideal for couples looking to downsize after the kids are grown or anyone who wants to limit the amount of yard work they need to do. The price range for attached properties in Evanston runs from $100,000 to over a million dollars, so you can imagine the available units present a wide choice in size, style and amenities.
In Evanston, the average sale price for a detached two-bedroom home is around $367,000; for a three-bedroom the average price goes up to about $484,000; and for four or more bedrooms in Evanston, real estate sells for around $814,000, on average. Homebuyers looking for a home that requires a little less upkeep can get just what they want in a one-bedroom condo for around $280,000 or a two-bedroom unit for $292,000, on average. Many condominiums and townhouses in Evanston offer three-bedroom places that sell for around $423,000, on average.
When showing visitors around Evanston, there's one spot locals are sure to want to show off to the uninitiated for breakfast: Blind Faith Caf? (525 Dempster St, 847-328-6875). Sure, it sounds a little hippy, but a taste of one of their signature smoothies, and you'll be convinced that sometimes being a hippy is pretty groovy! The menu is vegetarian, with an emphasis on organic and whole foods. You can get breakfast, lunch and dinner here, served every day of the week. To start off your day, the fruit and granola crepe is a must, but the French toast flamb? is an equally safe choice, and there are at least ten different egg and omelet dishes to choose from. For lunch, the pesto sandwich with grilled vegetables is one of the more complex and satisfying sandwiches around-this is, until you encounter the barbeque seitan sandwich (saut?ed wheat gluten and onions smothered in BBQ sauce).
Blind Faith takes the prize for having the most eclectic menu around, but it's not the only culinary hybrid in town. BAT 17 (1709 Benson Ave, 847-733-7117) is a new caf?/tavern with an identity crisis, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. The best part is that if you like this place, it can become your one-stop shop for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and even an after-work beer or nightcap. One of BAT 17's best promotions is that the place gives away free cups of coffee. That's right, F-R-E-E. Consider yourself warned though: once you start going into this place for that free cup of joe, you're bound to get hooked on some of the other things BAT 17 has to offer. There are eight different salads and a few dozen sandwiches that include corned beef, free range chicken and turkey, pastrami, fish, beef, pork, and veggie. Indeed, the sandwich menu is no joke, and eight of the favorites are available on the late night menu as well (after 11pm).
As an extremely multicultural community, Evanston is home to a large immigrant population that has inspired restaurants of varying ethnic cuisines. Among them, one of our favorites is Thai food, and as most locals will confirm, one of the best places to go for that is Ruby of Siam (1125 Emerson, 847-492-1008). In case you're wondering, this isn't the spot to go for a plain old plate of pad Thai. that's because Ruby offers some of the more interesting and ambitious meals in town that you won't want to pass up. Although, if you're craving some pad Thai, they do have that here, too, and it's good! The red snapper filets are excellent and the green curry is one of the best around. Siam Pasta (809 Dempster St, 847-328-4614) is another spot for quality Thai food. Low prices, delicious flavor and a relaxing rooftop deck for dining in the warmer months make this one of Evanston's culinary gems. Also a great place for tasty Thai is Cozy Noodle & Rice (1018 Davis St, 847-733-0101), a favorite among Northwestern students. It features savory Penang curry and an outstanding garlic chicken dish that achieve A+ status in our book.
Another delicious yet unassuming Evanston dining option is Va Pensiero (1566 Oak Ave, 847-475-7779), Evanston's standout Italian restaurant. There, Chef Eric Hammond changes his menu every month to reflect the cuisine of a different region of Italy. That, as you might imagine, provides for an incredible range of different offerings in the course of a year. The wines are superb, and if you go in the warmer months, be sure to request an outdoor table, as additional seating opens up in the exterior terrace. If you're in the mood for something a bit less formal though, try Quince at the Homestead (1625 Hinman Ave, 847-570-8400), which is located in the elegant Homestead Hotel in downtown Evanston. The menu is contemporary American with an emphasis on citrus flavors. The kitchen pumps out a balanced mix of small and large plates in a newly remodeled dining room that features a large, inviting fireplace.
For some down-home southern and Cajun-style cooking, everyone in Evanston knows to go to Dixie Kitchen and Bait Shop (825 Church St, 847-733-9030). Dixie's churns out lip-smacking meals so close to the real thing, you're surprised to step out the door and find yourself back in Evanston, Illinois. The restaurant is decorated with vintage Americana artifacts, and the cooking is authentic. There are a lot of must-try specialties here, but our number one picks are the Po'Boy catfish sandwich, mashed sweet potatoes, deep-fried plantains with a Montego Bay sauce, fried green tomatoes (yes, they are actually green!), and creamy cheese grits (for breakfast).
When it comes to shopping, you'll find Evanston defies its billing as a Chicago suburb and feels more like the independent city that it is. The biggest indicator is that, unlike your typical suburb, Evanston doesn't have a large shopping mall. Instead, Evanston shoppers have a wealth of independent shops and boutiques to choose from in the downtown retail district.
Folks flock to the national stores like Urban Outfitters (921 Church St, 847-492-8542), the North Face (1600 Sherman Ave, 847-733-0875) and the Gap (1706 Sherman Ave, 847-328-9230), but they are also patrons of local establishments like the boutique cape and shawl shop, Yanter Ltd. (628 Grove St, 847-492-9000), and the jewelry and clothing stores, Francesca's Collections (1706 Maple Ave, 847-328-5462) and Crowded Closet (824 Dempster St, 847-475-1135). If you're in search of a pair of earrings for someone special, Asinamali (1722 Sherman Ave, 847-866-6219) should be your first stop. Plenty of people visit just for the clothes, but most veterans will tell you the jewelry and accessories are the real treasure.
Of course, Evanston shopping is not only for the fashionistas. There's also the world-class, local bicycle shop, Turnin Bicycle (1027 Davis St, 847-864-7660), which will outfit you with a racing bike that's fit for the velodrome, or hook you up with a new beach cruiser for some lakefront coasting. If you're more of the rock-collecting curio sort, you will be impressed with the inventory at Dave's Down to Earth Rock Shop (704 Main St, 847-866-7374), which is chockfull of minerals, fossils, artifacts, and thousands of other weird rock-type items. Located in the basement of Dave's is the Prehistoric Life Museum (704 Main Street, 847-866-7374). This hidden gem is also filled with fossils and artifacts, but there are some really neat displays from prehistoric Mesoamerican life and the dinosaur era to boot. Anyone who digs fossils and minerals will love spending an afternoon here!
For the literary types, we recommend a visit to Amaranth Books (828 Davis St, 847-328-2939), Howard's Books (2000 Maple Ave, 847-475-3445) or Bookman's Alley (1712 Sherman, 847-869-6999) for the rare, used, and affordable. Spend a few hours perusing the impressive museum-quality collections and then spend a few bucks to expand your home library on the cheap with some rare finds from these downtown Evanston staples. Instead of vintage reads and classics, you'll get all the updated print material you can handle at Chicago-Main Newsstand (860 Chicago Ave, 847-425-8900). Whether you're looking for a foreign newspaper, an obscure magazine, or just the latest edition of the Chicago Tribune, Chicago-Main Newstand has got you covered. Featuring periodicals on every subject from all over the world, this is the place to go if you're looking for the latest news from any corner of the globe.
Residents in Evanston with a fondness for hard-to-find harmonies won't be able to resist regular trips to 2nd Hand Tunes (800 Dempster St, 847-491-1690). As the name suggests, this resale music store stocks used vinyl and CDs, in addition to DVDs, videos (if you still have a VHS player) and other stereo odds and ends. All genres are well-represented here, at affordable prices. And, in case you've got some albums you're willing to part with, they'll pay you cash for your old, gently worn music. 2nd Hand Tunes lives up to its self-proclaimed title as "Chicago's finest used music store," and is truly a haven for Chicago area record collectors.
As you probably assumed, the Evanston bar scene isn't exactly like Rush Street or Wrigleyville in Chicago. That said, there are a number of great watering holes in town, but most of them are conventional bars and taverns, rather than nightclubs. Northwestern students will most certainly declare The Keg of Evanston (810 Grove St, 847-869-9987) to be the only place worth dipping into, which isn't true at all, but because of the faithful coeds, it does get the most action of any of Evanston bar. Monday night is the biggest night at the Keg because of the drink specials, but there are cheap beers to be had every night of the week. The place is huge, too, and with four rooms you'll never have to worry about finding a spot to hangout with your pals.
The Firehouse Grill (750 Chicago Ave, 847-733-1911), a former firehouse on Chicago Avenue that has been converted into a bar and grill, is probably the most impressive watering hole in Evanston. The building is more than a century old, and it has still got many of the features of its previous incarnation, with brass fire poles, helmets and hoses adorning the walls. The bar offers five draught beers and 20 more in bottles, while the menu lists burgers and typical bar food. Another local haunt where you can get a casual meal with access to a full bar is Prairie Moon (1502 Sherman Ave, 847-864-8328), a joint that serves up American small plates late and keeps the drinks flowing until the wee hours of the morning (they've got a 3am liquor license on the weekends). With three dining rooms and two separate bars, you can bring all your friends along, and the back bar room has a couple of pool tables and dart boards, in case there's a gamer in the group. Evanston also has a Bar Louie (1520 Sherman Ave, 847-733-8300), a well-known Chicago chain that serves up lunch, dinner, and late-night nosh. This stylish hang out has excellent pub grub and the cocktail menu is also impressive, but prices are high considering they're mixed on the weak side. So, we generally choose to forego the mixed drinks and grab the monthly beer special (usually $3).
When you've got a thirst for a tall Guinness and a penchant for drinking your fresh-pulled ale in an authentic Irish setting, there's no better place in Evanston than Tommy Nevin's Pub (1450-1458 Sherman Ave., 847-869-0450). The family-run tavern welcomes the lot with open arms asserting, "There are no strangers here, only friends who have not yet met." The drinks are mixed strong with a selection of spirits and beer on tap to suit any taste. And the menu unites traditional faves from both sides of the Atlantic, tempting hungry patrons with everything from appetizers like the Harp Strings (long, crispy Harp-battered onion strands served with zingy honey mustard sauce) to entr?es such as the Shepherd's pie, fish and chips, and juicy Angus burgers (veggie burgers available, too). The food quality is top-notch at Tommy's, and we recommend the Moby Dick sandwich (beer-battered codfish on a toasted baguette) with a pint of your liking to wash it down. The prices are affordable and the atmosphere is cozy, yet roomy with dark wood d?cor and a couple fireplaces to warm up the night. Be sure to stop in on Wednesday evenings to catch some live Irish music and get swept up in the fist-swinging tunes of the Emerald Isle.
Some call it "Century 18," others call it "Century 12 and Century CineArts 6". Whichever you prefer, Evanston's primary cinema is an 18-theater complex that plays first-run Hollywood blockbusters, as well as foreign and independent films. All of the screens boast stadium seating, but the main difference between CineArts and Century 12 (besides the films that are shown) is the concession. CineArts features a bistro-style restaurant along with a small cafeteria, while the Century 12 offers your typical popcorn and soda options.
The anchor of the arts and theater scene in Evanston, Illinois is the Noyes Cultural Arts Center (927 Noyes St, 847-866-6597), which is located near the Noyes Street CTA Purple Line station. The building features studios and galleries, but the main attraction is the theaters. The Piven Theatre (847-866-8049) is one of Evanston's most important cultural resources, and for 35 years it has hosted world-class performances in an intimate, 70-seat auditorium. Light Opera Works (847-869-6300)is a music theater company that also operates out of the Noyes Cultural Center and performs over at Northwestern's Cahn Theatre (600 Emerson St). And last but not least, there's the Next Theatre (847-475-1875), a small and casual 134-seat venue that boasts some of Evanston's best productions.
Evanston's summer festival schedule is dominated by the Lakeshore Arts Festival (Dawes Park, 847-448-8260). The event has taken place the first week of August every year since it began in 1973. The festival typically features live jazz and classical music in the park, along with dozens of tents where local artists sell their crafts. And we can never pass up a swing by the culinary stands where local restaurants offer their delicious specialty dishes and tasty treats.
Another popular summer arts affairs is the Evanston Ethnic Arts Festival (Dawes Park, 847-448-8260), which comes about a month earlier than the Lakeshore Arts Festival and has been running for more than 20 years. For two days, Dawes Park is transformed into an international village, as more than 100 country flags are planted around the global convention of food, arts, and music.
As a close neighbor to Chicago, Evanston residents benefit from access to the CTA's Purple Line, which has six stops in Evanston that connect with the CTA Red Line at Howard Street in Rogers Park and provides express service to downtown Chicago during rush hours. Most folks don't use the Purple Line for intra-Evanston travel, as the downtown area served by the "El" is rather small, and most of it could be walked just as easily. In addition to the Purple Line, many Evanston residents commute to and from Chicago each day on Chicagoland's main commuter rail service, the Metra. Unlike the CTA's rapid transit system, Metra operates on a more fixed schedule, so you'll need to take a look at the regular stop times before making travel arrangements. Tickets to downtown Chicago cost $3.05.
- Chute Middle School - 1400 Oakton St - (847) 859-8600
- Dawes Elementary School - 440 Dodge Ave - (847) 859-8990
- Dewey Elementary School - 1551 Wesley Ave - (847) 859-8140
- Evanston Township High School - 1600 Dodge Ave - (847) 424-7200
- Haven Middle School - 2417 Prairie Ave - (847) 859-8200
- Kinglsley Elementary School - 2300 Green Bay Rd - (847) 859-8400
- Lincoln Elementary School - 910 Forest Ave - (847) 859-8970
- Lincolnwood Elementary School - 2600 Colfax St - (847) 859-8880
- Nichols Middle School - 800 Greenleaf St - (847) 859-8660
- Oakton Elementary School - 436 Ridge Ave - (847) 859-8800
- Orrington Elementary School - 2636 Orrington Ave - (847) 859-8780
- Roycemore School - 640 Lincoln St - (847) 866-6055
- St. Athanasius School - 2510 Ashland Ave - (847) 864-2650
- Washington Elementary School - 914 Ashland Ave - (847) 859-8180
- Willard Elementary School - 2700 Hurd Ave - (847) 859-8110
- Bagel Art - 1307 Chicago Ave - (847) 864-8700
- Clarke's - 720 Clark St - (847) 864-1610
- Firehouse Grill - 750 Chicago Ave - (847) 733-1911
- Fusion - 1741 Sherman Ave - (847) 733-8689
- Golden Olympic Restaurant - 1608 Chicago Ave - (847) 328-1617
- Noyes Street Caf? - 828 Noyes St - (847) 475-8683
- Prairie Moon - 1502 Sherman Ave - (847) 864-8328
- Quince at the Homestead - 1625 Hinman Ave - (847) 570-8400
- Sarkis - 2632 Gross Point Rd - (847) 328-9703
- Sher Main Grill - 802 Main St - (847) 864-1340
- Bombay Kabab House - 1901 W Howard St - (847) 475-4553
- Cozy Noodle & Rice - 1018 Davis St - (847) 733-0101
- Mandarin House - 819 Noyes St - (847) 869-4344
- Noodle Garden - 1241 Chicago Ave - (847) 332-2775
- Ruby of Siam - 1125 Emerson St - (847) 492-1008
- Sashimi Sashimi - 640 Church St - (847) 475-7274
- Siam Pasta - 809 Dempster St - (847) 328-4614
- Sushi Arigato - 822 Clark St - (847) 328-4848
- Thai Sookdee Restaurant - 1016 Church St - (847) 866-8012
- Argo Tea Caf? - 1596 Sherman Ave - (847) 864-6909
- Blind Faith Caf? - 525 Dempster St - (847) 328-6875
- Brother's K Coffeehouse - 500 Main St - (847) 328-7940
- Caf? Express - 615 Dempster - (847) 864-1868
- Caf? Mud - 1936 Maple Ave - (847) 733-9904
- Dream About Tea - 1011 Davis St 1011 Davis St - (847) 864-7464
- Italian Coffee Bar - 1549 Sherman Ave - (847) 328-7164
- Oceanique - 505 Main St - (847) 864-3435
- Caf? Luciano - 2676 Green Bay Rd - (847) 864-6060
- Symphony's Caf? - 1945 Central St - (847) 475-1200
- Trattopria Demi - 1571 Sherman Ave - (847) 332-2330
- Va Pensiero - 1566 Oak Ave - (847) 475-7779
Middle Eastern Cuisine
- The Olive Mountain Restaurant - 610 Davis St - (847) 475-0380
- Carmen's of Evanston Pizzeria - 1012 Church St - (847) 328-0031
- Gigio's Pizzeria - 1001 Davis St - (847) 328-0990
- Giordano's - 500 Davis St - (847) 475-5000
- Lou Malnati's Pizzeria - 1850 Sherman Ave - (847) 328-5400
- Papa John's Pizza 1743 Benson Ave (847) 475-7272
- Tapas Barcelona - 1615 Chicago Ave - (847) 866-9900
- The 1800 Club - 1800 Sherman Ave - (847) 733-7900
- Bar Louie Tavern & Grill - 1520 Sherman Ave - (847) 733-8300
- BAT 17 - 1709 Benson Ave - (847) 733-7117
- Bill's Blues Bar - 1029 Davis St - (847) 424-9800
- Indigo Lounge - 1710 Orrington Ave - (847) 866-8700
- The Keg of Evanston - 810 Grove St - (847) 869-9987
- Prairie Moon 1502 Sherman Ave (847) 864-8328
- Tommy Nevin's Pub - 1450 Sherman Ave - (847) 869-0450
- Century Theatres - 1715 Maple Ave - (847) 492-0123
- 2nd Hand Tunes - 800 Dempster St - (847) 491-1969
- Asinamali - 1722 Sherman Ave - (847) 866-6219
- Benefit Boutique - 1625 Sherman Ave - (847) 3322-2340
- Crowded Closet - 824 Dempster St - (847) 475-1135
- Dave's Down to Earth Rock Shop - 704 Main St - (847) 866-7374
- Francesca's Collections - 1706 Maple Ave - (847) 328-5462
- The Gap - 1706 Sherman Ave - (847) 328-9230
- The Levi's Store - 808 Church St - (847) 733-2914
- Marshalls - 2400 Main St - (847) 869-4661
- Yantar Ltd - 628 Grove St - (847) 492-9000
- The North Face - 1600 Sherman Ave - (847) 733-0875
- Turin Bicycle - 1027 Davis St - (847) 864-7660
- Urban Outfitters - 921 Church St - (847) 492-8542
- Williams Shoes the Walking Spirit - 710 Church St - (847) 3228-0527