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The Daily Northwestern

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Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Five hidden restaurant gems to check out in Evanston

Daily file photo by Sophie Mann
Chicken Shack. For incoming NU students looking for a place for delicious fried chicken, this is your spot.

Evanston is known for its wide variety of dining options. Here are five incoming students should check out when they arrive at Northwestern.



Emerging from the residential trees in the 8th ward is a crater of concrete along Asbury Avenue. There lies an Evanston gem, sparkling with neon signs and surrounded by a mini moat of parking spaces: Bill’s Drive-In. 

There, the history drips from every crevice, just as the American cheese does from one of the restaurant’s griddled burgers. Since its opening in 1949, Bill’s has been the kind of classic Chicago fast food where you’ll have to ask for ketchup separately — and you might still have to put it on the food yourself.

The food is as simple as it is affordable: a double cheeseburger, fries and drink will cost less than $10, including tax. The result is a kind of elevated fast food, where the taste is chain-esque but the service is not. Whereas the traditional chain will spit out the order some five minutes after a customer places it, a staff member at Bill’s will personally ask each customer what toppings they’d like adorning their order.

The whole process — from the sizzling griddle until the food is snug in a wax paper cocoon — takes maybe a minute, a blur of various shakers and condiment bottles levied upon the food. But the pace of such a performance sometimes puts out inconsistent results —  a misapplication of the salt shaker may leave a burger over-seasoned on one half and under-seasoned on the other every now and again.

But that performance, that vibe, is why Bill’s Drive-In is best experienced in person. And therein lies the issue for most Northwestern students — a 15-minute drive and a 45-minute walk from campus, Bill’s isn’t the most accessible for most students. At some point, though, many students will find themselves amongst the billowing trees of the 8th ward. And just like it has for the past 74 years, Bill’s will be there, too.

— Cole Reynolds



For incoming NU students looking for a place for delicious fried chicken, Evanston Chicken Shack is your spot. It’s hard to find on food apps, and it’s in a nondescript building tucked beside train tracks and a Subway shop, which is why it’s less known than some other fried chicken restaurants in the area upon entering freshman year. But the quality is hard to beat and is a big reason why most NU students know about it by the time they graduate.

My favorite order is the boneless wings with garlic parmesan sauce and fries, but there’s something for everyone on the menu. If you don’t like chicken, they even have pasta, fish and rib tips. Plus, Chicken Shack serves party pans if you’re looking to cater. 

Chicken Shack was named one of the 21 best fried chicken spots in the country by Thrillist in 2015. It’s also been awarded the No. 1 fried chicken place in Illinois by Mashed. Plus, NU students have voted it best late night bite in Evanston for several years in a row. 

— Nicole Markus



If you’re not a Trader Joe’s customer, you may never come across Union Squared. It’s a bit further from campus than the restaurants NU students frequent, but the extra five-minute walk down Chicago Ave is worth it for the pizza at the small shop.

Union Squared serves up Detroit-style, not the traditional deep dish or tavern-style typically found in Chicago. Whenever a new friend or family member visits me in Evanston, I bring them to Union Squared, and I’ve even gotten a few “this is the best pizza I’ve ever had” remarks. You can’t beat the fluffy crust and fresh ingredients. 

If you are trying Union Squared for the first time, I recommend the burrata margarita, which is a crowd pleaser. On a nice day, sit outside in their lovely seating area, where you can play bocce while you wait for your food.

— Nicole Markus



Contrary to its name, Mid Kitchen is anything but average. 

Located at 1512 Sherman Ave., the restaurant’s cozy environment and delicious breakfast fare make the extra few minutes from campus well worth the walk. 

Mid Kitchen’s offerings range from shakshuka to breakfast bowls to different types of eggs benedict. From s’mores French toast to a green superfood omelet, the menu runs the gamut in terms of breakfast food, making Mid Kitchen the perfect spot for lovers of the sweet and salty. Vegan and gluten free options are available for many menu items as well. 

The restaurant’s food is fresh and flavorful. The ambiance is chill, and the employees are kind and welcoming. The varied menu and high quality of food at Mid Kitchen continues to draw customers back for more.

— Chiara Kim



Every time I have an occasion to go out to eat in Evanston, Tomo Japanese Street Food is my top choice. 

The restaurant is located in the heart of downtown Evanston on Sherman Avenue, and it’s quick, convenient and delicious. 

Patrons are seated, usually immediately, at one of the intimate tables and order and pay from their phones. This system is a game changer for groups with indecisive diners like myself. A server brings the food within minutes, from the kitchen located a foot away from the tables. 

I’m a big fan of the karaage chicken rice bowl and ramen. However, the wide range of ramen, udon and small plate options all promise flavor and freshness, making Tomo a great restaurant to keep in mind while exploring Evanston dining options.

— Chiara Kim

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