In Memoriam: Clarke’s Off Campus

February 23, 2023

When I visited Northwestern’s campus for the first time in the summer of 2018, my first taste of off-campus life came in the form of a buttery, indulgent blueberry short stack at Clarke’s Off Campus.

Though the iconic downtown diner has now shut its doors forever, the taste will remain with thousands of former students whenever they wake up craving a decadent brunch on a Sunday morning. 

Clarke’s operated for 37 years in two locations, moving from a sun-drenched nook on Clark Street to a more modern storefront cafe on Davis Street in 2019.

Alumni families and hungover students have been joined in the diner by dozens of famous visitors over the years, including senators, presidents, royalty, television host Jerry Springer (Pritzker ’68) and boxer Muhammad Ali.

The food was rich and inventive, though classic brunch favorites were the real star. I genuinely mourn the days when you could pair the savory Hollywood skillet with a stack of fluffy golden pancakes. I still can’t believe I’ll never again sink my teeth into an Avocado Abby, a cheesy open-faced take on avocado toast.

For a while, mimosas and other breakfast cocktails were another huge hit on the menu — though the addition of a liquor license failed to keep Clarke’s on course after multiple closures throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

We will miss the walls lined with Cats memorabilia, the welcoming smile of owner Yolanda Ewing-Tsatas — whose father-in-law Nicholas Tsatas bought the restaurant in 1994 — and the consistent good vibes with a side of toast.

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Twitter: @ilana_arougheti