Chicago, the third most populous city in the United States, is typically the only part of Illinois most people are familiar with. It is easy to get swept up the midst of Chicago's skyscrapers, the bean, and Wrigley Field, and even easier to forget about the equally incredible areas the state has to offer. Because of this, the city of Evanston is Illinois's hidden gem. Evanston is only thirty minutes away from Chicago by car, or twenty minutes by train, yet is a whole new world waiting to be discovered. 

fish, water
Zoe Malin

After spending 48 hours visiting Evanston, I experienced all of its unique qualities and truly felt at home. The city has a way of making you feel comfortable, almost like you're part of a family, and constantly provides you with something new to explore

Visiting Evanston makes for a memorable family trip and is crucial to acquaint yourself with when looking at Northwestern University. To familiarize yourself with Evanston when you're in town, follow my guide for tips on where to eat and what to see. You will get a taste for everything Evanston has to offer and consequentially never want to leave.

Zoe Malin


Peeled Juice Bar
tea, chocolate, cream, coffee, ice, milk
Zoe Malin

Smoothies, acai bowls, and freshly squeezed juices, oh my; Peeled Juice Bar has it all! Striving to eliminate unnatural products from every aspect of their business, this juice bar uses raw, real ingredients to create the items on their menu. Additionally, they even purchase cups, utensils, and furniture pieces straight from the earth; the cups and utensils are made from corn-based compostables and the countertops from reclaimed wood.

The menu is vegan-friendly, too, to ensure that the juice bar does not participate in the over-consumption of fresh water or increasing carbon emissions. Peeling away all they can in order to make use of Mother Nature's generous offerings, Peeled Juice Bar is an example to food providers on how they can save the environment while simultaneously fueling their customers.


Lyfe Kitchen

grass, cake
Zoe Malin

Lyfe Kitchen, Lyfe standing for "Love Your Food Everyday", is a vegan, gluten free, and vegetarian's dream. However, the best part is that you can have none of those dietary restrictions and still love your food. Lyfe Kitchen has locations in California, Texas, Colorado, Nevada, Tennessee, and luckily, Illinois.

All items on the menu are on the lighter side and are equal parts nutritious and delicious. The chefs even grow their own herbs in-house and garnish their dishes straight from the garden. Gluten free flatbreads, quinoa crunch bowls, and berry and pecan salad aplenty, Lyfe Kitchen has a diverse array of food and caters to every customer's needs.


cheese, tomato, sandwich
Zoe Malin

Calling all grilled cheese lovers! Cheesie's is the place for you. Serving up unique grillled cheese combos (in addition to the traditional, of course), Cheesie's is on every Evanston resident's "must try" list. Meat-eaters will enjoy "The Edgar," a grilled cheese sandwich stuffed with pulled pork, and those looking for a simpler sandwich will devour "The Caprese." Each sandwich can be made on gluten free bread or as a salad, too. Cheesie's is an Evanston staple and makes sure everyone can indulge in grilled cheese fun.

chili, spinach, pepper, vegetable, salad
Zoe Malin

Like Lyfe Kitchen and many other Evanston eateries, Freshii aims to provide their customers with healthy dishes that they can eat on-the-go. This franchise offers a wide range of Buddha bowls, salads, soups, and even burritos, most of which are or can be made gluten free, vegan, and vegetarian.

Their Evanston location is situated in the middle of town, making it very convenient for Northwestern students to grab a bite between classes. It also has a small seating area and is open for breakfast.


asparagus, sea bass, bass, Halibut
Zoe Malin

An Evanston native, Chef Brian Huston's restaurant is based upon the warm, friendly atmosphere of his hometown. The menu is centered around his relationship with markets and farms in the area, each dish containing locally sourced, fresh ingredients. Whether you are looking for small plates such as green olives or pretzels and beer cheese, or a more formal meal, like sea bass and turnips, Boltwood welcomes parties of all sizes for brunch, lunch, and dinner.

Smiley Brothers Brewing Company
meat, trout, fillet, vegetable, seafood, fish, salmon
Zoe Malin

Smiley Brothers Brewing Co. couldn't be a better place to watch the Cubs in the World Series or have a get-together with old friends. A cross between a pub and a family-friendly restaurant, the tables are packed and the guests are as "smylie" as can be.

Be sure to order lots of appetizers like the white bean dip platter, and take advantage of the pizza bar, which stays open one hour after the kitchen closes. The special dishes were my personal favorites, though. From rainbow trout with roasted rainbow carrots to quinoa with asparagus, Evanston's family owned restaurant and brewery appeals to all.


Andy's Frozen Custard

ale, beer
Zoe Malin

Talk to any Evanston resident and they'll tell you the same thing: ya gotta go to Andy's. Thick, creamy custard made fresh every hour with your favorite toppings folded in- this is no typical ice cream. Evanston is fortunate enough to have an Andy's franchise in town and people of all ages take full advantage; there is a line out the door every night! Make it a point to treat yourself to a triple chocolate concrete upon your visit to Evanston... and trust me, you just may have to treat yourself twice. 

Shop 'Till You Drop

While Evanston's streets are lined with favorites like Urban Outfitters and Barnes & Noble, shy away from chain stores and instead hone in on the shops grounded in Evanston.


Crossroads Trading and Classy Closet Consignment are eccentric, recycled-fashion boutiques. There is no shortage of inventory and the pieces represent a wide range of styles. High quality, often brand-name clothing at an affordable price? Count me in.

Book Stores

wine, beer
Zoe Malin

Bookends and Beginnings is a book worm's dream. Shelves as tall the ceiling are stacked with everything from autobiographies, to science fiction, to comic books, and even cookbooks. There are cute knick-knacks, post-cards, and collectables as well, making shopping here absolutely addicting. I could have easily spent the entire day at Bookends and Beginnings, wandering down each isle and flipping through cover after cover.


beer, cake
Zoe Malin

As you walk into Alley Gallery, you will be greeted by Jessica the Double-Yellow Head Green Amazon Parrot. She is 32 years old, as old as the gallery itself, and could not be friendlier. While perusing gorgeously framed photographs, paintings, and humorous greeting cards, you can feed Jessica treats like sunflower seeds and chat with the affable owners. Alley Gallery will take your breath away with the art it showcases and simultaneously brighten your day with a "hello" from Jessica the Parrot.

Visit Northwestern University

turkey, water
Zoe Malin

A trip to Evanston would not be complete without walking through Northwestern University. Hugging Lake Michigan's shore line, there is a stunning view from every part of campus that will never fail to take your breath away. The buildings resemble medieval castles and the Shakespeare Garden is as serene as it is magical, creating an atmosphere students can learn in as well as escape.

Northwestern's historical traditions make the university that much more captivating and are as easy to spot as the painted rock in the center of campus. Every tiny detail of Northwestern adds to its overall grandeur and sends an undeniable pulse through Evanston. 

grass, tea
Zoe Malin

Fun Fact

Spoon University's founders, Sarah Adler and Mackenzie Barth, both attended Northwestern University! Their story and pictures can be found on posters scattered throughout campus, as well as information about Spoon University.

birthday cake, tea, coffee, cake
Zoe Malin

Visiting Evanston, while only for 48 hours, exposed me to a part of Illinois I previously did not know existed. I was introduced to a new city, new people, and a new place I may someday call home. I look forward to finding myself walking the streets of Evanston soon, forever grateful I discovered this hidden gem.