Before customers even stroll through the front door, Sakris Cafe promises something big: the world’s best omelet. The claim is written in bold letters across the front sign of the beloved Evanston breakfast and lunch joint. But the eatery’s line cooks are always eager to take on the daunting task, having turned out omelets, such as The Disaster Special—homemade ground beef, Armenian sausage, cheese, green peppers, tomatoes, onions, and mushrooms—since 1965. Their sandwiches perhaps deserve a place on the front sign as well, thanks to unique creations such as the chorizo- and cheese-packed Loretta. Other than the hearty breakfast and lunch menu, Sakris is also known around town for its speed and prices; “190 North” highlighted the restaurant in 2010, praising the chefs’ ability to “whip up a meal in just under a few minutes [for] eight bucks.”
The grill gurus at The Little Island, known for decades as Hot Dog Island, sizzle up mighty bun-held eats escorted to meals by an abundance of fresh fried sides. Browsing the menu of pipe-shaped proteins, diners find a Vienna Redhot ($2.15) losing a duel to a foot-long Polish sausage ($4.25), while the half-pound Big Island Classic burger casually looks on ($3.99). Merkts cheese blankets orders of cheddar fries ($1.69–$2.19), and frosty hand-dipped milkshakes ($2.49) perk up diners tired from securing a parking spot or ordering completely in pantomime.
Since 1993, Casteel Coffee’s baristas have caffeinated locals with steaming cups of artisanal roasted beans. The shop’s staffers follow in the footsteps of roast master Lee Casteel, who set the café’s course by roasting beans in small batches to ensure high quality. A new generation of roasters sources arabica coffees from around the world, procuring fair-trade varieties and naturally processed decaf beans whenever possible. To fulfill their motto, “fresh from our roaster to your cup,” coffeemakers pour drip coffees or press potent espresso shots from freshly ground beans.
Herbal, scented, and green and black teas also flow from the metaphorical tap, and the shop even purveys the occasional piece of high-tech brewing equipment, such as an electric coffee grinder or a mug that has WiFi. The success of the café’s knowledgeable staff and liquid pick-me-ups fueled the company’s expansion from a single café in Evanston to a second location in Chicago’s Loop. Casteel Coffee animates a dedication to its community by not supplanting the water in local fire hydrants with coffee and by supporting nonprofit organizations, such as the Chicago Children’s Museum.
Rose’s Wheat-Free Bakery & Cafe was founded on the principle that dietary restrictions shouldn’t get in the way of enjoying the finer things in life—namely cakes, cookies, sandwiches, and pizza. Every pastry and lunch item on the café’s menu is completely gluten-free, and the bakers also go out of the way to use organic butter, eggs, and tapioca flour when crafting their recipes.
Wheat allergies don’t take time off, and neither does Rose’s. The café and bakery is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner seven days a week. Even if you can’t make it up to the small Evanston bakery, there’s a good chance you’ll find some of their goodies elsewhere. They’re carried in many restaurants and gourmet food stores in the Chicago area, including Whole Foods and Café Ba-ba-Reeba.
Fuel Restaurant's kitchen staff prepares a rotating menu of gourmet fare completely on site using quality ingredients from local sources, including produce and eggs from nearby farms, bread from neighboring Heavenly Hearth Bread Company, and meat from Wisconsin. Salads freshly mixed by a house DJ greet dinner guests in three varieties, including a caprese, whose fresh mozzarella and heirloom tomatoes mingle under a drizzling of balsamic vinegar, and a slightly sweet toss of pickled fennel, apple slices, candied walnuts, and goat cheese.
The smell of baking pitas wafts from the ovens at Falafel Bistro, where chefs churn out steamy pocket bread and loads of healthy, vegetarian-friendly Mediterranean cuisine. Pitas serve as the base for the eatery’s namesake dish, which stuffs the freshly cooked dough disks with fried spheres of ground chickpeas, herbs, and garlic. Over at the rotisserie, beef and chicken rotate while slowly collecting the heat required to transmogrify into plates of shawarma, and cuts of lamb share skewer space with sliced, impeccably punctured veggies. Each of Falafel Bistro's entrees emerges from the kitchen with a pat of basmati rice, scoops of house salad, and pita frisbee. After diners polish off main courses, they can peel through layers of dough, honey, walnut, and pistachio—the building blocks of baklava—or predict futures that involve cars equipped with fog lights as steam twirls above mugs of mint tea.
The baristas at The Rock House wouldn’t lavish their attention on any old beans picked out of a wholesale catalogue—they needed a more personal experience with the coffee-growing industry. To guarantee the wholly non-exploitative origins of each cup of java served at their shop, the coffee brewers partnered with growers to develop their very own crops and went the extra mile to ensure quality by roasting all the beans in-house. As the baristas brew single cups with an artisanal pour-over method, customers can sip Sri Lankan teas, sift through rock-’n’-roll-inspired merchandise under the light streaming from naked light bulbs, chandeliers, and disco balls.