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Good, Reasonably priced restaurants in Evanston

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Bhickman Jan 8, 2009 09:14 AM

Looking for either Italian, Seafood or general "American" fare in Evanston that isn't cheap, but not exorbitant, either. Oceanique seems out of my wife's desires based on the menu, but I'd love to hear some thoughts from you fine foodies.

Thanks!

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    ferret RE: Bhickman Jan 8, 2009 09:53 AM

    Finding a good restaurant in Evanston is like finding a Muslim in Mecca. My current rotation includes Tapas Barcelona, Union and Pete Miller's, among others. Lulu's is a perennial favorite. Koi was a regular stop for quite a while but their quality seemed to slip.

    7 Replies
    1. re: ferret
      chicgail RE: ferret Jan 8, 2009 11:49 AM

      You must try both Va Pensierio and Campagne in Evanston. However avoid the Italian chain restaurant in the downtown movie theater complex like the plague.

      Other places you might like: That Little Mexican Cafe, Jackie's Bistro and Jilly's (both near Central St), Davis Street Fish Market (altho it isn't what it used to be), Merle's Barbeque (Merle's and Davis St. are part of the same group as Pete Miller), Stained Glass Cafe, and Chef's Station.

      1. re: chicgail
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        ferret RE: chicgail Jan 8, 2009 12:33 PM

        Forgot to mention Jilly's (and Jackie's) and can't believe I forgot Chef's Station - been a while since I've gone but it's a great place. Va Penseiro is very good, but I've had just so-so meals there as well. Davis Street Fish Market is more "miss" than "hit".

        As for my earlier mention of Pete Miller's, they do an excellent steakhouse menu (at steakhouse prices) but also have a lighter bar menu in front (although it can get very loud when the bands are playing -- every night).

        1. re: ferret
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          Bhickman RE: ferret Jan 8, 2009 01:02 PM

          There's a Pete Miller's in Lincolnshire/Wheeling that my in-laws went to and were extremely unimpressed with - comparing the price with the food they got.

          but these are some very good suggestions. Thanks!

          1. re: Bhickman
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            Bhickman RE: Bhickman Jan 8, 2009 01:06 PM

            the biggest gripe about that Miller's is that it used to be Crawdaddy Bayou and my family lived blocks from there and that was literally our favorite place to go.

        2. re: chicgail
          nsxtasy RE: chicgail Jan 8, 2009 05:41 PM

          >> avoid the Italian chain restaurant in the downtown movie theater complex like the plague.

          chicgail, have you been to Bravo in Evanston, or is this based on another location? And what was it you didn't like - the food, the service...? I'm curious, since I haven't been there (either the new location in Evanston, or the one in the Glen in Glenview). I've been to one of their other locations for a reasonably good Sunday brunch, though.

          1. re: nsxtasy
            chicgail RE: nsxtasy Jan 8, 2009 06:16 PM

            I've been to the one in Evanston (most recently Saturday night) and the one in the Glen. Had we realized that it was the same chain as the one in the Glen, we would have gone somewhere else. My experience both times was that it was a slightly upscale Olive Garden.

            My chicken Parmesan was basically a deep-fried chicken breast with a tablespoon of tomato sauce on it and the cheese was sprinkled on by the server. Mr. CG had spaghetti and meatballs that were about 75% bread, and 20% meat.

            We had a decent flatbread appetizer, but there was little on the menu that wasn't bready-based.

            Listen, no one will starve to death there, but it is certainly not a destination, especially with some of the really excellent restaurants in Evanston. We regretted not having walked to one of them.

            1. re: chicgail
              nsxtasy RE: chicgail Jan 8, 2009 07:21 PM

              Thanks for the report! Sorry to hear about your disappointing meal.

              You're right, there are a lot of excellent choices nearby. I have a feeling that that may be one of those "cursed locations" where restaurants just do not last - and in this case, apparently with good cause. (I thought Wolfgang Puck's Grand Cafe, its predecessor there, was pretty good, maybe not fantastic but not dreadful either.) Maybe they'll survive based primarily on convenience, carry-out orders, and drinks, the way Chili's has a few doors north.

      2. nsxtasy RE: Bhickman Jan 8, 2009 05:36 PM

        I eat in Evanston very frequently, and have done so for the past thirty some years. As ferret notes, there's a huge number of restaurants in Evanston, and many of them are excellent. I heard it stated that Evanston has twice as many restaurants as it did ten years ago, and even then it had quite a few.

        For Italian, I agree with the previous posters that Va Pensiero ( www.va-p.com ) and Campagnola ( www.campagnolarestaurant.com ) are the top places in Evanston. Note that Va P is considerably more expensive than Campagnola (entrees around $30 vs around $20). I have been to Va Pensiero on numerous occasions over the years and it has always been outstanding. I went to Campagnola several times some years ago, and it was often good but not great; I stopped going there for several years, then returned and had dinner there about six months ago and it was excellent. So my most recent experience at both restaurants has been extremely positive and I recommend both strongly.

        If you're looking for more affordable Italian, I recommend Panino's ( www.paninospizzeria.com ) at Dempster/Dodge; it's not fine dining, but the food is decent and affordable (I'm not fond of their pizza, though). I do NOT recommend either Dave's Italian Kitchen or Gio, which are next door to each other and where I've had dreadful meals. For pizza, Evanston has Giordano's for double-crust "stuffed" pizza and Lou Malnati's for single-crust "pan" pizza.

        For seafood... there's seafood, and there's seafood. I'll explain. Oceanique is a high-end restaurant specializing in seafood, where I have had at least five of the ten best meals I've ever eaten in Evanston, and that's high praise indeed. Everything I've had there has been wonderful - not just the seafood, but also the soups, the sauces, and their exquisite desserts. HOWEVER they have gotten extremely expensive in the past few years. If you go there, I recommend doing so during the week (NOT Saturdays) so that you can take advantage of either their special three-course prix fixe menu ($45), or the $25 coupon on their website ( www.oceanique.com ). They will also be participating in the two Restaurant Weeks put on by Chicago Originals in late January and early February; for details see http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/585615

        For a restaurant specializing in seafood that's not ridiculously expensive, Davis Street Fishmarket is actually reasonably good, although it's had its ups and downs. When I want really great seafood, very fresh with the best preparations, I go to Mitchell's Fish Market ( www.mitchellsfishmarket.com ) in the Glen complex in Glenview. It's the best seafood place around. And I say that knowing that Davis Street is closer, and going there means bypassing Don's Fishmarket, Bonefish Grill, and McCormick and Schmick. It's worth the extra travel time. In particular, I recommend the kung pao calamari, their shang hai (soy ginger) preparations, and their combination plates.

        You can also find excellent seafood at those "general American fare" restaurants, as well. Here are several recommendations.

        My first recommendation, considering it's for seafood, may be somewhat surprising: Pete Miller's ( www.petemillers.com ). As noted above, Pete Miller's is a steakhouse owned by the same folks as Davis Street Fishmarket and Merle's (barbecue). I've had two outstanding seafood meals at Pete Miller's recently; one was their seared jumbo sea scallops with butternut squash ravioli and gorgonzola cream sauce, the other was their lobster pot pie with lobster, shrimp, fresh vegetables, and creamy lobster bechamel sauce in a puff pastry. They told me that Davis Street had developed those recipes for their new Schaumburg location, and in Evanston you won't find them at Davis Street but you will at Pete Miller's. And oh yeah, they have excellent steaks, too (and an affordable and excellent hamburger).

        In addition to Pete Miller's and Oceanique, Evanston has another five "casual fine dining" restaurants with seafood items on the menu, some of which have been mentioned by others already: Chef's Station, the Stained Glass, Jilly's Cafe, Jacky's Bistro, and Quince. All of these are decent, but Chef's Station ( www.chefs-station.com ), in the Davis Street Metra train station, is easily my favorite, based on numerous visits to all of them. The food is consistently outstanding. And the prices are surprisingly reasonable (none of the "Saturday sticker shock" of Oceanique).

        One other place where I've had excellent seafood is Lupita's, the Mexican restaurant on Main Street. Their regular menu is just okay, but they have weekly specials for lunch and dinner, which they keep posted and up to date on their website at www.lupitasmexicanrestaurant.com , and I've found that their seafood is fresh and delicious. In particular, I've enjoyed their sea bass and their octopus.

        There are lots more restaurants in Evanston, although this covers the higher-end ones pretty well. If there's anything in particular you're looking for, please feel free to ask!

        2 Replies
        1. re: nsxtasy
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          Bhickman RE: nsxtasy Jan 8, 2009 09:37 PM

          That is an awesome, deep post about Evanston place nsxtasy! Thank you!!!

          1. re: nsxtasy
            chicgail RE: nsxtasy Jan 9, 2009 04:25 AM

            It really is a great report.

            My only comment -- and it's on nsxtasy's post as well as my own -- is that my experience Stained Glass has consistently overreached and over charged. For that reason I would put it at the bottom on the list of "casual fine dining" establishments in Evanston.

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