Greek chicken with unforgettable, lemon-soused "Maria" fries are destination-worthy. [Photographs: Jennifer Olvera]

There are meals that just stick with you. Evanston's Cross-Rhodes is one of them. I first ate there back in my early food writing days and thought, "If this is what it's all about, I'm in for a treat." Fast forward to today. I haven't been... in years. Turns out, absence makes the heart grow fonder.

This unassuming, Greek-leaning diner is nothing fancy—just an in-room kitchen, tiled floors, and a handful of generic Isles prints. Tables are crammed together. It's loud with the clang of cooking and more than enough crying kids.


Put it all aside and find the best damn fries around. They're a thick steakhouse-style cut and double fried. This is important because they're served swimming in a pool of bracing, herb-flecked lemon-white wine vinaigrette. Get them "Maria-style"—you'd be wise to—and a shower of salty feta comes into play. Arguably, the best are saved for last; that's when remaining nubs are saturated with near-drinkable "jus." Yes, jus, because much of whatever you order—the crunchety-skinned Greek chicken ($10.00), the juicy skirt steak Rhodes-style ($13.75)—is served on top or beneath, melding meaty juices with the wonderment below.


As for the rest of the menu, it's filled with greatness. The avgolemono ($2.10), while chicken light, is boldy tart from a blast of lemon, a pitch-perfect comfort food that doesn't skimp on flavor. Just skip the oyster crackers and add hefty shake of black pepper instead.


And the gyros ($6.00)? They're alone worth the trip. Carved from the spit, the caramelized meat is piled high in puffy pita bread and doused with requisite tzatziki. Feel like a charburger? Get yours like the locals do: in a pita, topped with sliced gyro meat.

There are heftier options on the menu as well, among them moussaka and pastitsio, but if you go that route, do yourself a solid: get those fries alongside. Maybe two orders, in fact.


913 Chicago Avenue, Evanston, IL 60202 (map)


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