Leonidas Chocolate Café may technically be a chain, but this mashup of a French patisserie and a Belgian chocolate shop is anything but generic. Everything from their pastries to their crêpes are homemade daily. Their wide array of chocolates are imported straight from their original confectionary in Belgium (where some of the best chocolate in the world comes from – just ask Godiva).
Patisserie Coralie, Bistro Bordeaux and Crêperie Saint-Germain all call Evanston their home, but the often-overlooked Leonidas offers an atmosphere and concept that the other eateries simply can’t match.
The authentic, European-style café is populated by a variety of patrons, including NU students looking for a place to camp out and study while enjoying a piping hot latte and a rich Belgian waffle or delicate French crêpe. Its location on Central Street is a bit of a hike from campus, but the 201 bus (free with a WildCARD!) can get you there in no time.
Leonidas may have fewer choices for sweet crepes than Evanston’s resident crêperie, but it makes up for the lack by offering build-your-own savory crêpes. You can also order more unique options like sweet Belgian waffles, croissant breakfast sandwiches or hot chocolate flavors ranging from Mexican to dulce de leche.
Plus, their display cases show off a huge assortment of fancy and intricate chocolates, as well as exquisite pastries such as macarons, eclairs and even cake pops.
You’d have to go to Leonidas every day to taste everything on their extensive menu. Thankfully, I’m up for the challenge.
This time, I decided to try a savory crêpe. Faced with the difficult task of building my own, I chose to fill the thin French pancake with scrambled egg, arugula, sun-dried tomatoes and Swiss cheese.
After watching the chef prepare my meal directly in front of me, I dug in. The crêpe itself was tasty and tender, not too chewy or crunchy – one of the best I’ve had. It served as the perfect vehicle for the jumble of ingredients that were stuffed inside. The sun-dried tomatoes added some sweetness and texture, while the arugula provided a little spice. The egg and cheese made the crêpe hearty and filling.
My companion chose the Crêpe Suzette, a sweeter choice featuring caramelized sugar, butter and Grand Marnier orange liqueur. Not overpoweringly sweet, this crêpe was light and elegant, and the citrus flavor really shone through.
Leonidas may not be the cheapest option, but the high quality and the huge portion size makes the price completely worth it. The chocolate café is the perfect place for a new study spot, a casual brunch with friends or a romantic date. Next time you’re craving some French or Belgian cuisine, venture outside of your comfort zone and make the trip to Leonidas.