There are few greater pleasures after a long winter than being able to enjoy dinning alfresco—especially after the trying year we have all just had. But sometimes you want a little more of an upscale dining experience than simply enjoying a slice of Gigio’s in Raymond Park. Luckily for you, downtown Evanston is filled to the brim with fantastic outdoor dining options. Below are just a few of our favorite places to eat and imbibe outdoors around E-Town.
The Evanston outpost of a Winnetka original, Stacked & Folded takes the approach of doing just a few items particularly well. In this case, that means they have a variety of both inventive and familiar sandwich and taco combinations. Former and current ETHS students should try not to hold the restaurant’s Winnetka origin against them because the menu is filled with hidden gems such as the bulgogi cheesesteak sandwich, the pork belly and eggs sandwich, and falafel tacos.
Outdoor seating: Sidewalk tables (Capacity 52)
824 Noyes St., Evanston, IL 60201
Phone: (847) 328-9100
Firehouse Grill is the rare restaurant where its theming is matched (or even surpassed!) by its food. With its unique setting in a refurbished fire station, the restaurant is as fun to look at from the outside as it is on the inside. Plenty of seating is available outside on their dedicated patio area, and the grill is very family friendly. Stop by for classic American fare done right; highlights include burgers, grilled cheese, pan pizzas, and enough libations to slake even the thirstiest fireman’s cravings.
Outdoor seating: Private Patio (Capacity 80)
750 Chicago Ave, Evanston, IL 60202
Phone: (847) 733-1911
Soul and Smoke serves Kansas City-style barbecue fare and comfort food from the heart. Chicago Tribune’s Nick Kindelsperger awarded Soul & Smoke 3 restaurants naming us one of the best Chicago area’s best barbecue.
A caterer turned to-go restaurant during the pandemic, Soul & Smoke is a black owned, women led business serving slow smoked barbecue and comfort food from an industrial side street in Evanston’s 5th Ward. Chicago Tribune’s Nick Kindelsperger awarded Soul & Smoke 3 stars saying “the brisket is the best I’ve tried outside of Texas. … each bite is outrageously juicy and laced with a smokiness that doesn’t leap for attention so much as wrap its fingers lovingly around the back of your neck”
New at Soul & Smoke this summer is patio style seating in front of the restaurant. Place your order at the window, and then enjoy your meal at one of the 4 large picnic tables out front. The smoked meats are a must order, along with the decadent macaroni & cheese and sweet and crumbly cornbread muffins.
1601 Payne St, Evanston, IL 60201
Phone: (847) 859-2732
Evanston hours are:
Monday + Tuesday: Closed
Wednesday + Thursday + Sunday: 11am-8:30pm
Friday + Saturday: 11am-9:30pm
Bat 17 is Evanston’s answer to Zingerman’s, another Midwestern college town’s famous deli. And in many ways Bat 17 surpasses its original inspiration. It’s famous for the generous portions heaped on their classic pastrami, corned beef, or chicken sandwiches. Besides being the place to enjoy some of the best sandwiches in town, Bat 17 is also a great spot for brunch and seamlessly transforms into a more sedated version of a sports pub in the evenings.
Outdoor seating: Sidewalk Seating (First come, first serve)
1709 Benson Ave, Evanston, IL 60201
Phone: (847) 733-7117
Evanston’s original—and best—vegetarian restaurant has been serving inventive twists on global favorites since 1979. For many an Evanstonian, Blind Faith is a local landmark and the place where they first tried “exotic” meat substitutes such as seitan. Standout menu items remain the Mongolian stir-fry and the enchiladas verdes, which are best enjoyed with a spirit or glass of orange juice on the café’s sidewalk seating.
Outdoor seating: Sidewalk Café
525 Dempster Street, Evanston, IL, 60201
Phone: (847) 328-6875
Compared to some of the restaurants on this list, Bluestone is one of the more recent additions to Evanston’s restaurant scene. But for a newer spot, Bluestone has quickly built a reputation for serving great comfort food and drinks. The restaurant offers full-service on their street facing patio; highlights include the fried pickles, the “Grown Up Grilled Cheese,” and the Bluestone burger.
Outdoor seating: Outdoor Patio (Capacity 20)
1932 Central St, Evanston, IL 60201
Phone: (847) 424-0420
Campagnola serves up rustic Italian cuisine in an elegant—yet friendly—atmosphere. Highlights of the menu include traditional Mediterranean starters such as diver scallops, octopus, and roasted beets. For your main course you can’t go wrong with the salmon or pork chop Milanese.
Outdoor seating: Outdoor Patio
815 Chicago Ave, Evanston, IL 60202
Phone: (847) 475-6100
Originally opened in 2005, the Celtic Knot is Evanston’s own beloved version of a classic Irish public house—serving up a Guinness and a smile on every visit. Besides a fully stocked bar, the Celtic Knot also serves traditional pub food—often with a unique and flavorful twist. Besides the expected Irish cuisine, such as corned beef and cabbage, the pub also offers Mexican fare and delicious desserts like key lime pie.
Outdoor seating: Sidewalk Seating (First come, first serve)
626 Church St, Evanston, IL 60201
Phone: (847) 864-1679
If you don’t think of the Central Street district when considering your dining options in Evanston, it’s time you gave the area another look. One reason why is the recent addition of establishments like Comida Cantina and its sister restaurant Ten Mile House, both located on a bustling stretch of Central’s business corridor. Comida serves up fresh takes on classic Mexican cuisine such as tacos, fajitas, and enchiladas. The cantina has plenty of vegetarian options as well, making this a great spot to enjoy food that is sure to please even the pickiest eater in the family.
Outdoor seating: Private Patio (Capacity 26)
1928 Central St, Evanston, IL 60201
Phone: (847) 868-8466
Popular with Northwestern students and townies alike, Cozy Noodles & Rice has some of the best pad Thai and fried rice in Evanston. The restaurant is unique for this list in that its “outdoor” dining options are actually located indoors, with the outside being invited in thanks to the opening of the restaurant’s expansive street-facing windows. The restaurant is BYOB, which means that you can stop by E1 Liquors (Evanston’s first liquor store) across the street for a reasonably priced bottle of wine to pair with some seriously yummy Thai food.
Outdoor seating: Seating is inside with large windows providing plenty of circulation and fresh air.
1018 Davis St, Evanston, IL 60201, United States
Phone: (847) 773-0101
Farmhouse was one of the very first farm-to-table concept restaurants to grace downtown Evanston. This means that Farmhouse has long been offering delicious burgers, tuna salad melts, and steaks—all sourced freshly and seasonally from local Midwestern farms. Farmhouse takes the concept one step further, however, as it even has its own farm located in the driftless area of Wisconsin, where they grow a variety of fruits, nuts, and mushrooms that are used in the restaurant daily.
Outdoor seating: Sidewalk Patio (Capacity 36)
703 Church St, Evanston, IL 60201
Phone: (847) 492-9700
For a unique outdoor dining experience, be sure to check out the Five & Dime’s rooftop patio. The patio offers up highlights of its sister restaurants that are all located downstairs: Lulu’s, Taco Diablos, and Blue Horse Tavern. Besides delicious food and handcrafted cocktails, enjoy the vacation atmosphere by playing a round of games such as bag toss, pinball, or giant Jenga.
Outdoor seating: Rooftop Patio, call to confirm availability (Capacity 72)
1026 Davis St, Evanston, IL 60201
Phone: (847) 869-4343
Found was established in 2012 with inspiration for its décor and menu coming from two distinct time periods: 1920s France and the Beat Generation. The decoration has been updated since with funky and fun items. Patrons will notice that many of the items that populate the dining area are “found” themselves—just as the establishment’s name would suggest. And the colors aren’t limited to the walls, as each dish will provide a wonderful palate of shades and flavors. The menu is highly seasonal and includes standouts such as flatbreads, smoked trout, and roasted swiss chard.
Outdoor seating: Sidewalk Café (Capacity 24)
1631 Chicago Ave, Evanston, IL 60201
Phone: (847) 868-8945
KOI was founded in 2004 as one of the first restaurants on the North Shore to serve authentic Asian cuisine. The menu includes dishes that hail from eight distinct regions of China along with fresh sushi. We recommend the “Szechwan Whole Red Snapper” and the spicy “Orange Glazed Plate.” Hopefully their famous bottomless brunch and dim sum offerings will return soon!
Outdoor seating: Sidewalk Seating (Capacity 12)
624 Davis St, Evanston, IL 60201
Phone: (847) 866-6969
From the Atomic Age décor to the surprising twists on comfort food favorites, it’s easy to see why The Lucky Platter has been an Evanston favorite since 1991. And when it comes to eclectic diners, describing The Lucky Platter’s atmosphere as funky is an understatement. While ordering, you can’t go wrong with favorites such as fried green tomatoes, Tandoori salmon salad, or the Yankee pot roast. And the fun isn’t limited to just the food. Lucky Platter boasts a full bar—you can even get kombucha on draft!
Outdoor seating: Patio (Capacity 35)
514 Main St, Evanston, IL 60202
Phone: (847) 869-4064
Mid Kitchen offers a wide menu of items (all made from scratch) that will suit almost anyone’s needs or dietary preferences. Waffles, benedicts, and eggs are served all day, while sandwiches and savory or sweet bowls make up their lunch offerings. Highlights from the menu include the falafel sandwich, crab cakes, and the vegan BLT.
Outdoor seating: Sidewalk Seating Capacity 12
1512 Sherman Ave, Evanston, IL 60201
Phone: (847) 563-8454
In operation since 1968, enjoying a chili cheese dog from Mustard’s after a Northwestern football or basketball game is a tradition that many an Evanstonian holds dear to their heart. The experience is as simple and classic as the famed hot dog stand’s menu, which offers the reliable standbys of dogs, burgers, and chicken sandwiches. What truly makes the pilgrimage to Mustard’s worth it is the always perfectly tender and well-seasoned hot dogs that are guaranteed to please customers.
Outdoor seating: Picnic Benches (First come, first serve)
1613 Central St, Evanston, IL 60201
Phone: (847) 864-2700
NaKorn is unique among Evanston’s Thai restaurants—due in large part to serving Thai food that is more traditional and authentic than the typical American-Thai cuisine. The flavors are incorporated into rare and rich takes on dishes that can be hard to find outside of a restaurant in Bangkok, let alone in downtown Evanston. Must-tries include poached tiger prawns, braised angus beef with bah mi noodles, and coconut curry braised chicken.
Outdoor seating: Three Outdoor “Bubble Tents” (Reservation Required)
1622 Orrington Ave, Evanston, IL 60201
Phone: (847) 733-8424
For those with a discerning palate who enjoy a good wine pairing and knowledgeable staff, look no further than Oceanique for your next night out on the town. At this point, Oceanique may be as well-known for its extensive wine list as it is for its fresh caught seafood. But just because you are having an opulent experience doesn’t mean that you have to pay an arm and a leg, especially when you can take advantage of specials like their Tuesday night oysters for $1.50 each. Just be sure to save room for dessert—some of the best French pastries in town!
Outdoor seating: Sidewalk Seating (Capacity 20)
505 Main St, Evanston, IL 60202
Phone: (847) 864-3435
In Evanston’s famously forward-looking restaurant scene, Old Neighborhood Grill stands out as a proud throwback to simpler times. The menu won’t break any barriers for creativity—mozzarella sticks, hot dogs and hamburgers are just a sampling—but what is on offer is of a uniformly high standard. And there are also Greek and Mexican menu items to be had, along with various salad options. For a restaurant like this, however, it is much less about the quality of the food and more about the familial atmosphere you’ll feel each time you enter the establishment.
Outdoor seating: Private Patio
2902 Central St, Evanston, IL 60201
Phone: (847) 492-9500
Tucked away just a few blocks from Northwestern’s campus, Ovo Frito Café is one of Evanston’s newest spots for breakfast, lunch, and brunch. And it is readily apparent why as menu items such as “Hay Mama Estos Huevos” and “Cornflakes-Crusted French Toast” far exceed the standards of your typical café cuisine. The atmosphere is always warm and welcoming and a highlight in addition to the food itself.
1936 Maple Ave, Evanston, IL 60201
Phone: (847) 859-6966
Prairie Moon is another Evanston standard for those looking for a unique take on regional American cuisine. Specialties such as colossal shrimp scampi with linguine and black cat etouffee are just a taste of what the Cajun-inspired menu has to offer. When the restaurant first opened in 2002, it was one of the first establishments in Evanston to receive a liquor license. And to this day, it continues to be a popular watering hole with locals that offers a wide variety of craft beers, wine and cocktails.
Outdoor seating: Sidewalk Café (Call to reserve)
1635 Chicago Ave, Evanston, IL 60201
Phone: (847) 864-8328
Located on Howard, the border of Evanston and Chicago, you’ll find the Peckish Pig, which lays claim to being E-Town’s first brewpub. The food is more inspired than your typical pub grub, and the staff is truly international, with a head chef hailing from Mexico City and other key players hailing from Ireland and the United Kingdom. You can find that global influence in menu items such as “Bubble and Squeak” and “Kimchi Roasted Potato Hash.” Of course, no visit would be complete without a freshly brewed pint of Stout or IPA.
Outdoor seating: Private Patio
623 W Howard St, Evanston, IL 60202
Phone: (847) 491-6778
Recognized as one of the best date spots in Evanston, the romance of Tapas Barcelona is hard to deny. Established in 1995, the restaurant has fastidiously maintained its reputation through the years and remains one of the best tapas restaurants in all of Chicagoland. The menu has many of Spain’s best known “little bites” that are perfect for sharing, including “Delizia de Queso” and “Croquetas del dia.” For a truly decadent experience give the “Datilles a la Sevillana” (fresh dates wrapped in bacon and covered in a bell pepper sauce) a try.
1615 Chicago Ave, Evanston, IL 60201
Phone: (847) 866-9900
Established in 2014, Ten Mile House takes its name, and inspiration, from one of Evanston’s first public houses which was originally founded in 1836. The welcoming atmosphere only heightens the truly enjoyable comfort food on offer. Everything from the smoked brisket to the crispy grilled cheese are prepared just so. And the best part is you can wash everything down with a favorite local brew, as Temperance beer is always on draft.
Outdoor seating: Sidewalk
1700 Central St, Evanston, IL 60201
Phone: (847) 905-0669
Terra & Vine is owned by “Check, Please!” host and noted wine expert Alpana Singh. If you didn’t know, Singh was also the youngest woman to ever attain the title of Master Sommelier, doing so at age 26. And despite this pedigree, the restaurant remains affordable, even for starving Northwestern students. The Mediterranean-inspired menu includes burrata cheese, crispy calamari, and Sicilian-style pizzas.
Outdoor seating: Outdoor Patio
1701 Maple Ave, Evanston, IL 60201
Phone: (847) 563-4333
The Alcove is the rebranding of Chef’s Station, an Evanston favorite for over 20 years. And while starting anew can be a risky proposition in the restaurant business, in Alcove’s case, it is a bet that culinarily pays off. The Alcove is the pinnacle of Evanston’s fine dinning scene, with items such as “Grilled New Zealand Rack of Lamb” and “Red Wine Braised Beef Boneless Short Ribs” being just two standouts. The extensive wine list guarantees that there will always be a suitable wine pairing no matter what dish you may choose.
1625 Maple Ave, Evanston, IL 60201
Phone: (847) 570-9821
Almost hidden away in an alley (between Oak Street and Maple Street downtown), you will find Evanston’s premier steakhouse. The restaurant offers all of the usual staples for its type, including multiple cuts of steak. Other dishes not to be missed include the pan-seared salmon, roasted cauliflower, and bison Bolognese. Can’t decide what sounds good? The prix-fixe menu starts at $35 dollars and comes with a salad and choice of dessert.
Outdoor seating: Covered Patio – Capacity 38
1016 Church St Rear, Evanston, IL 60201
Phone: (847) 868-8041
It’s good to know that there are still restaurants like Trattoria D.O.C. in Evanston—where they still take the time to bake their own bread and pizza onsite each day in a wood-fired oven. The same care and reverence for tradition can be found in the restaurant’s classically inspired Italian menu. The liberal use of fresh seasonal ingredients is sure to keep even regulars coming back to try something new. However, the “Tonnarelli Cacio Pepe” and “Risotto ai Frutti di Mare” remain highly recommended.
Outdoor seating: Sidewalk seating and a separate dining area on Custer St. (Capacity 20)
706 Main St, Evanston, IL 60202
Phone: (847) 475-1111
Trattoria Demi has been Evanston’s favorite place for authentic, yet casual, Italian food for over 25 years. And it is easy to see why, Trattoria Demi is bathed in warm and romantic ambiance without being overly pretentious or snobby. When enjoying quality Italian food on the restaurant’s sidewalk seating, you’ll often forget you’re in Evanston as the flavors transport you away to the heart of Italy itself. Be sure to take advantage of Monday’s half-priced bottle of wine special.
Outdoor seating: Sidewalk Café (Capacity 14)
1571 Sherman Ave Ste 1, Evanston, IL 60201
Phone: (847) 332-2330
Union Squared and Union Pizzeria are sister restaurants that offer a unique take on pizza, specializing in Detroit and Neapolitan styles respectively. Union Squared is the one to check out for their Detroit-style pizzas and intimate beer garden. The thing to know about Union Squared is that they only make so much pizza dough a day, and when it’s gone, it’s gone. So be sure to get there early to ensure you can get your favorite pie. Besides delicious pizzas such as “The Godfather” or “Greektown Spinach,” the restaurant also offers a full bar with creative cocktails.
Outdoor seating: Beer Garden (Capacity 50, 30 seats)
1307 Chicago Ave, Evanston, IL 60201
Phone: (224) 714-3100
Viet Nom Nom first brought Vietnamese staples such as banh min and beef pho noodle soup to Evanston with their downtown location; and that location was such a success that they now have expanded—with outposts at Northwestern’s Norris Center and two additional restaurants in Chicago itself. It doesn’t take a genius to see why; the portions are generous, and the prices are reasonable. We recommend stopping by for lunch and trying a combo meal. The almond cookies are delicious for dessert and are made in-house from scratch daily!
Outdoor seating: Sidewalk Patio (Capacity 12+)
618 1/2 Church St, Evanston, IL 60201
Phone: (847) 859-6326