It was bound to happen eventually. After detailing the food options around a few Chicago's major universities (University of Chicago, UIC, and DePaul), a former Northwestern University student emailed to wonder when his school would finally get its due (though he was terribly polite about it).
Of course, I had always planned on covering the options around Northwestern, but I just wanted to make sure I was doing it right. See, I never went there, so I had to rely on recommendations and my own knowledge of the area, which is slightly limited by the fact that the university is located in Evanston—a place I don't get to visit as often as I'd like. But Northwestern also has a downtown campus in Chicago, one that is increasingly expanding in Streeterville. So that had to be included, too.
This is admittedly a work in progress, but one that genuinely showcases the many great options for students. Let's get right to it.
If Evanston only had Edzo's Burger Shop that would be enough. As one of the best burger joints anywhere, it's a must stop for students, faculty, and just about anyone who lives within driving distance. It's worth the trek for what may be the best burger in the Chicagoland area. But if simply can't make the journey, just wait until Edzo's Lincoln Park location finally opens.
Hot Dog Stand
Of course, Wiener and Still Champion certainly knows how to dish out a burger, even if said burger happens to be topped with chicken fried gravy, aioli, Merkt's cheddar, and fries (a.k.a. the Faux Poutine Burger). But this stand is probably best known for its fried food offerings, including fried pickle chips, fried gyros, and fried bacon. One also shouldn't forget that they also serve a very good hot dog.
Pizza options are plentiful, but a couple stand out. The pizzas at Union Pizzeria are cooked in an oak-burning oven, which results in a "crisp, chewy crust" that functions as a good base for some inventive topping combinations (lamb sausage with eggplant, anyone?). Despite some "mediocre sausage," Carmen's Pizza manages to scratch a "stuffed pizza craving itch" if you have one of those.
Every Big 10 school deserves a place to eat wings, and Northwestern has a great one. As we found on our roundup of the Best Buffalo Wings in Chicago, Buffalo Joe's serves some crispy wings. But that's not the only fried chicken offering around. The Evanston Chicken Shack made it on our list of 14 Fried Chicken Places We Love thanks to the "bold black pepper seasoning in its crust, which added punch to an already superb chicken."
Northwestern's Downtown Campus
Northwestern also has a location in the Gold Coast that includes the university's medical school, law school, MBA program, and the School of Continuing Studies. Our ace photographer, Huge Galdones, spent some time on this campus, and put together this report. Take it away, Huge!
The pizzas at Bar Toma are a force to be reckoned with. Cooked in a piping hot brick oven, the chewy, crunchy, and foldable crust acts as the perfect vehicle for the ﬂavor-packed toppings. As a big fan of mushrooms and eggs, I think I've ordered the Ova e Funghi pizza every time I've been in. I can also vouch for the Calabrese and the Merguez. What can I say? I like my meat.
Nestled in the (former) Playboy Building, Café Descartes may be a chain-of-sorts, but the staff are attentive (and some actually speak French), it's quiet compared to some other chains, and the coffee (namely the café au lait) is great. It's the perfect refuge from the hustle and bustle of the campus.
In Need of Noodles
I don't know if I would ever want to stay a night at the Tokyo Hotel (even if happy ending may be involved) that houses Ginza, but if I'm craving ramen, I'm guaranteed to haul ass and spend a lunch hour there. This no-frills, Japanese-speaking establishment is reminiscent of a back alley sushi bar or noodle shop that you'd ﬁnd in the many corners of Tokyo. Aesthetics aside, it's the umami-laced ramen that makes this place shine. If soup isn't your thing, head over Bistro Paciﬁc in the Playboy Building and try the yaki soba for another quick noodle ﬁx.
First came M Burger, then Epic Burger. In my books, both are delicious, and lucky for you, both close to campus. The Double M burger is my poison at the former, whereas an Epic burger with two fried eggs is my go-to at the latter. Though neither is necessarily good for your cholesterol, the hospital is fortunately just across the street.
Classic. This is the only way that I can describe Pierrot Gourmet. Basically a slice out of Paris, Pierrot Gourmet at The Peninsula has a phenomenal spread of breads (les croissants, oh la la), pastries, and confections. Please pass the insulin.
When The Parents Are In Town
Branded as a casually elegant dining destination, NoMI Kitchen is a beautiful establishment that overlooks the heart of the Magniﬁcent Mile. The locally- and seasonally-inspired menu is well-executed from cover to cover. Since mom and pop are ﬁtting the bill, be sure to take advantage of the well-curated wine list and be sure to indulge in the Whole Roasted TJ's Farm Chicken ($75; worth every penny). Don't forget to save room for dessert: they are some of the best that Chicago has to offer. On another note, if you (or your folks) are feeling baller or are rolling in it, go to Tru for an exquisite and lavish dining experience. That is all.
Ghirardelli's does ice cream and chocolate right. Yes, it's not from the midwest, but when it comes to ice cream, as long as it's tasty, who cares? Bottom line, it's good. If you show your NU Wildcard, you even get a discount. Want something a little more crafty? Look no further than Bar Toma (immediately next door), which serves up some great gelatos (basil, blood orange, and raspberry).
Call it the romantic in me, but when I think date night, "bistro" immediately comes to mind. Luckily, the comfortable/classy vibe and the modern take on French cuisine at Bistronomic ﬁts the bill for many occasions, including a special date night. Both the space and the food both exude charm and a certain je ne sais quoi—exactly what one needs to seal the deal.
As a go-to joint for tourists, foodies and food industry alike, The Purple Pig is a mecca for good 'cheese, swine and wine.' Showcasing housemade charcuterie, Mediterrean-inspired dishes, a generous selection of cheeses, an extremely cost-effective wine program... And a soft serve ice cream machine, this is a great place to end (orin some cases, start) your night.
Have a recommendation for our list? Let us know!