When months’ worth of dirty laundry renders dorm conditions inhabitable, when “meet me at Norris” gets old and the trek down to Chicago is complicated by endless viaduct construction, Evanston’s many mom and pop hangouts are a reliable alternative to social eremitism.
More widely known as the home of the nation’s swankiest Burger King (replete with its own bouncers), Evanston also boasts a variety of homegrown businesses infused with charming nods to local culture. For extensive vegetarian options, European coffees, politically charged spoken verse on open mic nights and observance of the inalienable WildCARD discount, consider the following destinations:
1. Kafein, 1621 Chicago Ave.
Open late and stocked with endless coffee for $1.95, Kafein made Complex Magazine’s 50 Best College Coffee Shops list earlier this year. Additionally, Kafein has a long history with Northwestern, regularly donating to Dance Marathon and displaying the art of NU students on its walls. Monday nights are open mic, so there’s always a chance campus celebrities might make an appearance.
2. J.J. Java, 911 Foster St.
Located near the Foster El stop, J.J. Java boasts an inexpensive menu, expansive worktables and ample numbers of outlets for students to congregate and charge while they study or play Diablo. Frequent promotions on the Downtown Evanston mobile app will knock additional dollars off the raspberry mocha frappucino or roasted veggie panini.
3. Curt’s Cafe, 2922 Central St.
It’s worth going a little further and taking a brief train ride north of campus to the Central El stop to experience one of the Central Street business district’s newest establishments. With a menu not unlike any ordinary cafe, Curt’s Cafe nevertheless stands unique in Evanston for its dual role in social justice. By exclusively employing ex-offender youth and giving them business training, Curt’s Cafe is currently the city’s only ex-offender reentry program.
4. Unicorn Cafe, 1724 Sherman Ave.
Frequently populated by grad students, Unicorn Cafe is a good place to force oneself to study amidst a sea of austere Macbook Pros. Although the cafe only accepts cash, there is a giant unicorn mural behind the counter. Weigh your pros and cons.
5. Delbe’s Corner, 1100 Davis St.
This cafe is operated by a friendly wife-and-husband team that brought their unique steamed sandwiches from Florida to Evanston. Ever since opening day this spring, Delbe’s Corner’s menu of sugar-glazed croissants, Julius Meinl coffee and a wide array of bialy sandwiches has built a loyal clientele.