Willard’s Fran’s Cafe reopens as a communal diner spot for students


Colin Boyle/Daily Senior Staffer

Fran’s Cafe in Willard Hall. Fran’s returned to Willard on Monday with an updated menu that features an array of diner foods.

Adrian Wan, Reporter

Fran’s Cafe — which serves what it claims to be the best shakes “not only on campus, but in all of Evanston” — is back.

Originally located in Willard Hall, Fran’s was relocated to 1835 Hinman after Willard closed for renovations in 2016 as part of the Housing Master Plan. Along with the reopening of Willard Hall, Fran’s returned Monday with an updated menu featuring an array of diner foods including burgers, burritos and milkshakes, said James Betsanes, Northwestern Dining’s unit marketing specialist.

The menu has been redesigned to meet various student demands, Betsanes said, and now offers items like gluten-free pizza crust to provide healthier options. Fran’s also now serves more shareable items like buffalo wings and continues to offer tater tots in an effort to maintain its “diner feel.”

The changes to the venue accommodate a lot of “soft seatings,” Betsanes added, which provide more opportunities for students to interact with one another and create a cozy atmosphere.

Weinberg junior Akilah Smith said while Fran’s felt more comfortable before the renovations because of its “dimmer lighting and chill vibe,” the quality of food in the newly-reopened Fran’s meets her expectations. The diner spot serves as a good alternative to the dining halls.

“(Fran’s) helps as a place to meet,” Smith said. “The difference of this Fran’s is they have more areas where you can just sit with other people and not necessarily get food. It’s more like a collaboration.”

Betsanes added that while the reopening of Fran’s offers quick food access particularly to students living on South Campus, it appeals to the entire student community.

“From a late-night diner feel, you are going to get people coming back from downtown Evanston, (stopping) at Fran’s … picking up something before heading back to their homes,” Betsanes said.

Fran’s is now open from 8 a.m. to 2 a.m. every day and will extend its hours until 3 a.m. starting Jan. 15. While Fran’s is open for business now, the grand opening — including a ribbon-cutting ceremony — will take place Jan. 25.

In the past, Fran’s hosted different late-night events like trivia and “Chick’s Night” as a break for students. Betsanes said the new Fran’s will hold a series of similar events starting in late February to increase traffic.

McCormick junior Melissa Perez said despite all the new features, the Fran’s of pre-renovation Willard appealed more to her as “a lively place to hang out.”

“(Now) it feels more like a go-to place like Lisa’s,” Perez said. “But old Fran’s feels more like home.”

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