This North Shore city offers the perfect suburban escape.
Yes, school is out for the summer. But just because Northwestern’s campus isn’t hustling and bustling with undergrads these days, Evanston is by no means a ghost town. In fact, with the young moms pushing strollers, retirees walking their dogs and an occasional college student here for summer classes, this northern ’burb feels a bit like Main Street USA. Not to get all Pleasantville, but on our recent visit we couldn’t help but notice folks going out of their way to be friendly by holding doors open or just saying “hello.” Spending an afternoon here is like taking a mini vacation via the Purple Line. Speaking of the Purple Line, the best time to head up to Evanston is during rush hours when the train goes express between the Belmont and Howard stops. Skip out of work early one Friday afternoon and then return during the 5pm rush, to take advantage of the express service.
Start your visit by hopping off the train at the Dempster stop and hit up the shops between Dempster Street and Chicago Avenue. If you’ve skipped lunch, grab a quick bite at the nearby Bagel Art (1307½ Chicago Ave, 847-864-8700). The small storefront bakes fresh bagels in house and serves them as healthy sandwiches such as a fresh mozzarella, pesto and tomato ’wich ($7). An even healthier option is around the corner in the form of Blind Faith Cafe (525 Dempster St, 847-328-6875). The vegetarian mainstay has been in the neighborhood for more than 20 years, offering dishes like tofu “crab” cakes and fried seitan sticks.
After a refuel, it’s time to get your shopping on. Stick around this corner and stop by The Mexican Shop (801 Dempster St, 847-475-8665). Although the name of the store might lead you to believe its goods come strictly from south of the border, the shop actually stocks women’s clothing and accessories from all over the world. And many of the items, such as turquoise necklaces and earrings, are in the $20 price range. Also worth checking out is 2nd Hand Tunes (800 Dempster St, 847-491-1690). Unlike its “Mexican” neighbor across the street, there’s no confusion from the name here. You’ll find used (affordable) music and DVDs, like Indiana Jones movies and the latest Madonna album for around $8. Pop into other shops in the area such as the vintage Secret Treasures (605 Dempster St, 847-866-6889) and children’s boutique lollie (1312 Chicago Ave, 847-328-7303) before taking a shopping break at FolkWorks Gallery (1301½ Chicago Ave, 847-328-0083). The folksy space is full of items your grandmother would love, such as the exhibit opening this week, which features vintage Victorian linens and fabric. It’s not cutting edge but still worth checking out.
Walk a few blocks north on Chicago Avenue toward downtown Evanston. You’ll know you’ve reached the city’s hub when you get to Fountain Square. It’s where Davis Street and Orrington and Sherman Avenues meet. The warm summer air and numerous outdoor seating options almost give the area a Santa Monica feel. If you haven’t eaten yet, dig into a delicious prosciutto thin-crust pizza at one of the outdoor tables at Trattoria Demi (1571 Sherman Ave, 847-332-2330). Or just continue to stroll through the mix of local and chain shops in the downtown area. Shopping standbys such as Gap (1706 Sherman Ave, 847-328-9230), Design Within Reach (1710 Sherman Ave, 847-424-0881) and Urban Outfitters (921 Church St, 847-492-8542) are scattered amidst Chicago-based stores like Untitled (812 Church St, 847-332-2370) and Hot Mama (1608 Sherman Ave, 847-905-0236), featuring clothes for expectant mothers, as well as ladies without a bun in the oven. Asinamali (1722 Sherman Ave, 847-866-6219) is one of the standout boutiques along Sherman Avenue. The women’s clothing shop’s summer dresses can be a splurge (up to around $150), but the sale section is impressive—the current promotion is 50 percent off summer sandals.
Finish off the afternoon with a movie at Century 12 Evanston and CineArts 6 (1715 Maple Ave, 847-492-0123), one of the only theaters in the area that serves booze. Having a drink or two during the flick will give you a nice buzz and make that express train home from the Davis stop go even faster.