By Abby Reisinger, Maddy Shannon, Hillary Lindwall, George Markoulakis, Megan Suckut, Alexa Santos and Izzie Baum
Whether you’re in the mood for a cozy brunch with a full carafe of coffee or a classy dinner complete with a cheese plate, Bistro Bordeaux is the place to stage a coup d’état on your American taste buds. The ambience is unmistakably French: warm colors, a crisply dressed, attentive wait staff and Édith Piaf crooning in the background. Must-eats on the brunch menu include the omelette Blanche ($9.95) and the pain perdu ($12.95), an egg-white omelette served with French toast, seasonal berries and crème fraîche. When it comes to dinner, go with a classic and try the escargots de Bourgogne ($9.75). Served with a warm baguette, this garlicky, savory dish has a parsley finish and is definitely worth being a little pretentious. After your entrée, order a cheese plate of mild, stinky and sharp varieties and finish off with a swallow of Asti. Make a visit tout de suite and see for yourself why “Paris is always a good idea…”
Mon-Thurs 5:30pm-9pm, Fri-Sat 5:30pm-10pm, Sun 10:30am-1:30pm, Sun 5pm-9pm
618 Church Street, Evanston / (847) 424-1483
If you’re craving Chinese food, turn to Pine Yard for traditional Mandarin, Szechwan and Cantonese dishes. Located down the street from the Evanston post office, this restaurant is a hidden gem that offers shareable dishes at affordable prices for students. Pine Yard is a great place for casual dining with friends and serves both lunch and dinner. All lunches include tea, a spring roll, your choice of soup, steamed or vegetable fried rice and your choice of entrée. The price of lunch depends on the entrée, but it will cost you no more than $8.95. The dinner menu is slightly more expensive, but all dishes are large enough to share. We recommend the Mandarin beef with Chinese greens in oyster sauce ($12.95), or for vegetarians, the mu shu vegetables ($12.95), which come with four Asian-style pancakes and are assembled table-side by a member of the wait staff. End the meal with a cup of tea to cleanse your palate and save your leftovers for a late-night bite.
Mon-Thurs 11am-9:30pm, Fri-Sat 11am-10 pm, Sun 4pm-9:30pm
1033 Davis Street, Evanston / (847) 475-4940
Mt. Everest, located on Church St. in Evanston, offers a true taste of the Himalayas, boasting several Nepali dishes alongside its extensive Indian food menu. Start your meal off with the vegetable samosas ($4.50), which are filling and reasonably priced. These potato-and-vegetable-stuffed pastries are fried to perfection and served with several dipping sauces. For vegetarians, the dal tarka ($9.95) is a mouthwatering entrée of yellow lentils sautéed with cumin seeds, ginger, garlic, tomato and onions. The chicken tikka masala ($13.95) is a patron favorite, and although all of the entrées are meant to be shared, you won’t want to split this dish with anyone. The tender chicken is covered in a creamy buttery tomato sauce and pairs flawlessly with the restaurant’s freshly-baked naan. The atmosphere of Mt. Everest is relaxed, complete with dim lighting and warm colors. The dark hardwood floors and tall wooden pillars lend an air of class, raising the expectations for the food, which does not disappoint. Although the restaurant is on the pricier side, it offers deals and a WildCard discount that allow students to dine on a budget. Not to mention, every Thursday is Ladies‘ Night, which means that women get free glasses of wine, beer, juice, soda, tea or mango lassi with their meals. The restaurant also offers a popular lunch buffet that includes a salad bar, appetizers, vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes, tandoori, naan and desserts for only $9.95 plus tax.
Mon-Fri, 11:30am-10pm, Sat-Sun 12pm-3pm
630 Church Street, Evanston / (847) 491-1069
The food at Campagnola is a delicious testament to the ideals of Italian cooking — using fresh ingredients to make simple dishes prepared with love. Campagnola proclaims itself “Evanston’s Neighborhood Italian Restaurant.” While the atmosphere is more upscale and relaxed than a loud, messy Italian dinner at Noni’s house, the dishes most certainly bring to mind an image of a cozy restaurant in a little Italian town. Located just one block from the Main El stop, Campagnola is the perfect place to go with a few friends or to bring a date. The waiters are friendly and not overbearing, allowing you to linger over dinner and conversation. The menu has four short categories: starters and salads, pasta dishes, “meat, fowl & fish” and vegetables. The average price for an entrée is about $20, and it’s worth every penny. Start with the wood-fired radicchio ($9) which is wrapped in smoky bacon, topped with creamy goat cheese and smeared with fresh basil aioli. Move on to a homemade pasta dish like the pappardelle bolognese ($20) which features thick, flat noodles smothered in creamy tomato meat sauce that you can soak up with some warm, crusty bread. Definitely save room for dessert and order the bread pudding ($7), which is drizzled with a salted caramel sauce and topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Tue-Thurs 5pm-10pm, Fri-Sat 5pm-12am, Sun 10am-2pm, Sun 5pm-9pm
7931 Lincoln Avenue, Skokie / (847) 674-8100
Don’t be put off by the outward “fast foodiness” of Pita Inn. Since 1982, this Skokie food mecca has been serving up the best Mediterranean and Middle Eastern food Chicagoland has to offer. Within its ultra-casual, seat-yourself confines, guests can enjoy tender shawarma, crispy falafel and flavorful shish kabobs. Though the entrées and sandwiches present a dauntingly large amount of food, make sure to save room for the pita bread and hummus. Walk off your meal with a trip to the adjacent Pita Inn Market and Bakery to catch a glimpse of the pita bread being made, and pick up some olives and baklava while you’re at it. After all, you’ll have enough money left to do so, as the prices (especially for the lunch specials) are surprisingly cheap compared to their Evanston counterparts. Although the restaurant gets crowded during the weekends, plan a trip to Skokie and brave the line; you’ll probably start planning your next Pita Inn pilgrimage before you even finish the pilaf.
Sun-Thurs 11am-11pm, Fri-Sat 11am-12am
3910 Dempster Street, Skokie / (847) 677-0211
Big Star Taqueria
Located just off the El, open till 3 am, with affordable food and a full bar, Big Star Taqueria seems like a fairy tale restaurant. But rest assured, this wonderful place does, in fact, exist. Big Star is located on Damen Avenue in the heart of Wicker Park, where you can spot the restaurant’s brightly lit star sign from blocks away. Although the bustling crowd may be overwhelming and you normally have to wait to be seated, there are many ways to get your taco fix. You can score a seat inside, on the Christmas light-adorned patio or snag a spot at the bar. But the easiest option is to order from the carry-out area beside the patio and enjoy your food on Big Star’s picnic tables (provided it’s not a subzero night). The menu offers five different taco choices of pork shoulder, pork belly, potatoes, chicken thigh or tilapia, each $4 or less. The chips and guacamole combo ($8) is definitely a highlight of the menu, as well as the Sonoran hot dog ($7), an all-beef hot dog wrapped completely in bacon. As for beverages, the beer, bourbon, cocktail and tequila menus will certainly satisfy any boozy craving. Virgin beverage options include a refreshing limeade ($3), horchata ($3) and a dulce de leche milkshake ($4). Big Star is a great hangout spot for groups of friends or family. It’ll be easy on your Mexican-food-craving stomach and on your wallet.
Mon-Fri, Sun 11:30am-2am, Sat 11:30am-3am
1531 North Damen Avenue, Chicago / (773) 235-4039
Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba is a young and upbeat restaurant in the heart of Chicago that features an eclectic Spanish tapas menu and classy, modern décor. To start, we recommend ordering a pitcher of white peach sangria for the table ($20), which has a hidden kick of vodka that increases its potency and flavor. There’s also a wide selection of beers and cocktails, with a particularly refreshing margarita that’s heavy on the lime. Tapas specialties include the citrus-cured salmon with cucumber, crema and toast ($8), the beef skewer with horseradish atop a bed of onions ($8) and the chicken skewer with zucchini almond pesto ($7). The meats are tender and juicy, and the salmon is wonderfully light. Cheese fanatics should opt for the warm goat cheese baked in tomato sauce, which is accompanied by crispy garlic bread ($8). There’s also a gluten-free menu that offers dishes like the local apple, spinach and quinoa salad topped with cider vinaigrette ($5). While the table shares most items, there are a few “pintxos” (bite-sized options) that can be ordered individually for $1.50. We recommend tasting the tuna crostini with fresno chili and horseradish. The wait staff at Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba is especially attentive, instantly swapping dirty dishes for clean ones and offering recommendations from the extensive menu. Though the restaurant is enormous (and great for large groups) be sure to call for reservations two to three days in advance in order to secure your preferred time and table.
Mon-Thurs 4pm-10pm, Fri 11:30am-12am, Sat 10am-12am, Sun 10am-10pm
2024 North Halsted Street, Chicago / (773) 935-5000