The Northwestern football gameday experience is never complete without a hearty pre- and maybe post-game meal. Luckily, Evanston is one of the premier dining locations in the country, labeled “The Dining Capital of the North Shore.”
So if you’re coming to Ryan Field and not planning on tailgating (or even if you are) you should be sure to check out one of hundreds of restaurants. Here are our favorites from downtown Evanston, just blocks from the university’s campus, as well as the surrounding areas. For convenience’s sake, we’ve broken down the options by Purple Line “El” stop.
$ = 0-10 per person
$$ = 10-20 per person
Union Pizzeria | 1245 Chicago Ave. | $$
Union Pizzeria is the closest you’re going to get to ‘fine dining’ on this list. Serving both pizza and Italian small dishes, it can best be described as business causal Italian. It doesn’t open until 5 p.m. on Saturdays, so this is a great place to stop by after a change of clothes and a Wildcat victory.
Smylie Brothers | 1615 Oak Ave. | $$
A couple blocks from the Davis stop, Smylie Brothers serves fantastic (The best - Zach) barbecue and a variety of adult beverages in a cool warehouse setting. Highly-recommended if you have time to sit and eat either on your way to or back from the game.
Bennison’s Bakery | 1000 Davis St. | $
Here is a great place to hit before one of Northwestern’s vaunted 11 a.m. kickoffs. Hop off the El, walk a block, and get a couple donuts before heading up to the game. Or if you’re feeling adventurous get one of the Saturday specials, a Maple bacon long john.
Edzo’s | 1571 Sherman Ave. | $$
Chances are if you’ve ever been to Evanston, then you know what Edzo’s is. An Evanston classic, Edzo’s has the best burgers in town and tons of different kinds of fries. (The garlic are the best. - Ian) We can’t recommend it enough as long as you’re okay with waiting in what will definitely be a long line on a Saturday evening.
Bat 17 | 1709 Benson Ave. | $$
If you want a burger, but also want to go to a bar, then Bat 17 is the place to go. Split into a restaurant side and a bar side, it’s actually a great place to go even if you don’t want to drink. They also have way more than burgers, as you can get everything from Pastrami to the incredible Fried Chicken and Biscuit Sliders (only available on the weekends). It’s been named the best restaurant multiple times for a reason. It’s also the closest thing you’ll get to a Northwestern gameday bar.
Le Peep | 827 Church St. | $$
Le Peep is a great option because if its versatility. Want breakfast or brunch before an 11 a.m. showdown? Le Peep has you covered. Want lunch prior to an afternoon game? Le Peep can do that, too.
Gigio’s Pizzeria | 1001 Davis St. | $
Gigio’s is Evanston’s oldest pizzeria, having served the city for over 50 years. It’s as good as ever and offers a “pizza of the day” option every day in addition to the regular menu pizza options. Soup, salad, “South of the Border” and hoagies are also popular, but the pizza is what made Gigio’s famous, and it’s definitely the best option.
Buffalo Joe’s | 812 Clark St, | $
UPDATE: I (Zach) cannot believe I forgot to put Buffalo Joe’s in. So now it is included in the update. Buff Joe’s is an Evanston classic, and we’d be remiss to not include it. They serve incredibly good wings in generous portions for cheap, but the wings aren’t the only option. The burgers and dogs are great options as well, and the cheese fries are devilishly good. If you haven’t made it to Buffalo Joe’s yet, you need to.
Cheesie’s | 622 Davis St. | $
It doesn’t quite qualify as close to the El—and there are great restaurants as far away that we didn’t include—but Cheesie’s is a must for every Wildcat fan at least once. The grilled cheeses are monstrous and delicious, there’s plenty of beer on tap, and the atmosphere is awesome. It’s not a sports bar by any stretch of the imagination, but the wall mural—featuring Northwestern greats and NU memorabilia—is awesome.
Chicken Shack | 1925 Ridge Ave. | $
It’s not the fanciest place in Evanston, but Chicken Shack easily has the best chicken around. In fact, they were even named one of the best fried spots in the entire country. It’s a very bare bones set up, and there isn’t a lot of room to sit, but the chicken is absolutely worth it.
Hecky’s | 1902 Green Bay Rd. | $$
“It’s the Sauce.” Hecky’s is a strange place because it has some of the best barbecue in Evanston, but also they’re takeout only. So if you’re dying for some killer barbecue and also have somewhere else to eat it (maybe a Ryan Field parking lot), then Hecky’s is the place to go. It’s a bit of a hike from the Foster stop, but—similar to Cheesies’s—we had to make the exception for Hecky’s.
Dave’s New Kitchen | 815 Noyes St. | $$
Dave’s Italian Kitchen was an Evanston staple for over 30 years before closing this spring. Luckily, that wasn’t the last we’d hear of owner Dave Glatt, as he quickly opened up a new restaurant up on Noyes. It’s significantly smaller than the original Dave’s, in both physical and menu size, but it’s very similar, if not exactly the same in quality and theme. If you loved Dave’s then you’ll love New Dave’s
D&D Dogs | 825 Noyes St. | $
D&D Dogs is your traditional Chicago fast food place. They’ve got hot dogs, brats, Italian Beef—everything you’d expect. It won’t blow you away, but it is certainly some great food for right before or after a game and at an affordable price. It’s also attached to the D&D Finer Foods, a grocery store.
Al’s Deli | 914 Noyes St. | $$
Al’s is eccentric. A distinctly french deli hiding right next to the Noyes El stop, Al’s has an array of French soups and sandwiches at a fairly affordable price. They even accept Euros!
Tomate Fresh Kitchen | 914 Noyes St. | $
One of the best, and most affordable, places for Latin food in all of Evanston, Tomate serves self proclaimed “gourmet street food.” Owner Tania Merlos-Ruiz had to open the store after getting too many catering requests for her home-made empanadas. Stop by here if you’re craving anything from tacos to gorditas.
Mustard’s Last Stand | 1613 Central St. | $
There isn’t a ton in terms of food options right in the vicinity of Ryan Field, but there is the wonderful hole-in-the-wall that is Mustard’s Last Stand. Located literally in the Ryan Field parking lot, Mustard’s is the place to go if you want a bite to eat right before game time. You’re probably going to want to get a hot dog, but they do have burgers and chicken as well.
Those are some of our favorite places to hit for a gameday in Evanston, but we’re bound to have missed some places. And remember, this guide is focused mainly on the restaurants closest to the El. If you’re willing to walk an extra few blocks, especially at the Davis stop, sushi, pizza (Giordano’s, Lou Malnati’s and Blaze), ice cream (Andy’s is the perfect way to celebrate a Northwestern victory), and much, much more is available.
Feel free to share some of your favorite places to eat before, after (or even during) a Northwestern football game in the comments!