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North Shore Restaurant Month serves up a sampler platter of great dining
Throughout all of February, 50-plus restaurants just north of the city in Wilmette, Evanston, Northbrook and other bordering towns are dishing out specials from free apps and desserts to reduced bills and prix fixe deals. Here are the top ten spots worth the trek.
Freelance writer Selena Fragassi highlights the 5th Annual North Shore Restaurant Month with her picks for “must” try dining spots:
BY SELENA FRAGASSI
For Sun-Times Media
Now that you’ve gotten your fixe at Sepia and Blackbird during Chicago Restaurant Week, how will life go on? You could wait ‘til next year, or you could butter up to more dining deals during the 5th Annual North Shore Restaurant Month. That’s right, month. Throughout all of February, 50-plus restaurants just north of the city in Wilmette, Evanston, Northbrook and other bordering towns are dishing out specials from free apps and desserts to reduced bills and prix fixe deals. Here are the top ten spots worth the trek.
Turmeric Indian Restaurant
Deal: Free dessert with entree purchase
When it opened in December 2012, Turmeric was the first Indian restaurant to debut in Glenview—and it fills the void quite nicely. Named for a traditional cooking spice, the southern Indian fare is richly authentic with a number of barbecue-style grilled tandoori meats, curries, seafood specialties (try the Masala Fried Fish) and an original spread of six different types of naan bread, including one stuffed with nuts and dried fruit.
2300 Lehigh Ave., Glenview. Visit turmericindia.com; (847) 730-5246
Deal: Free appetizer with entree purchase
Named the “Best Sushi Restaurant in the U.S.” by Travel + Leisure, Roka Akor’s new location at Skokie’s Old Orchard shopping center takes after its downtown sister. The center of attention is the steaming robata grill that cooks up cuts of steak, seafood, chicken, lamb and vegetables with perfect charred flavor, as in the hallmark A5-9 Japanese Wagyu. The menu is rounded out by traditional Nigiri and Maki sushi and apps like the Prime Beef and Kimchi Dumplings.
4999 Old Orchard Shopping Center, Skokie. Visit rokaakor.com/old-orchard; (847) 329- 7650
Found Kitchen and Social House
Deal: Three-course prix fixe dinner for $32
Being a college town, Evanston is home to greasy spoons and pizza joints, but in the past two years a flurry of restaurant openings has upped the ante. At the helm is Found, the brainchild of Amy Morton whose mission, alongside former Lula and C-House chef Nicole Pederson, is to bring all-local ingredients to American-style small plate and creative cocktail menus. Favorites include the Lamb Meat Balls with Chimichurri and Yogurt, Twice Fried Chicken Wings and Grilled Slagel Farm Steak, all cooked in a wood-burning oven. The décor of salvaged goods makes it even cozier.
1631 Chicago Ave., Evanston. Visit foundkitchen.com; (847) 868-8945
Deal: Prix fixe menu for $20.14
As the name of this Lettuce Entertain You spot might suggest, Di Pescara is the perfect union of Italian cuisine and fresh fish that calls to mind a neighborhood eatery on the Mediterranean coast. Here Tilapia Milanese with a spicy, sesame almond crust, Lobster Fra Diablo pasta and Parmesan-Crusted Scallops go hand-in-hand—not to mention the Chicken Alla Parmigana and Black Angus Meatballs. Whatever you do, make sure to start your meal with the Lemoncello Mojito.
2124 Northbrook Court, Northbrook. Visit di-pescara.com; (847) 498-4321
Deal: Free dessert with entree purchase
If you’re looking for a piece of Greek Town in the suburbs, you won’t find better than Avli. Born from the now-closed Ouzeri tapas restaurant in Lincoln Park, Avli has the same principles of making all the Gyros, desserts, sauces, marinades and stocks in-house. Traditional entrees like Pastichio and Moussaka are met by Arni me Gigantes (braised lamb foreshanks) and Bacalao, which is basically Greek-style fish and chips. Desserts are what Avli champions—try the Vinsanto Volcano Cake or the Rizogalo (eggless rice pudding with orange peel preserves).
566 Chestnut, Winnetka. Visit avli.us; (847) 446-9300
Deal: Free appetizer with entree purchase (one per table)
Bowling, bocce and good food come together at this upscale Northbrook entertainment and dining venue where guests can take sporting breaks on lush leather couches or sit in the restaurant to enjoy a menu of traditional American fare. Small plates include Louisiana Barbeque Shrimp, Tenderloin Sliders and Honey and Ricotta Focaccia. For entrees, choose from sandwiches like the Proscuitto Caprese, Chicken and Goat Cheese Pasta and Maple Glazed Salmon, plus a variety of pizzas and flatbreads. If you need to wait 30 minutes before going back to the lanes, there’s a full bar for you, too.
1150 Willow Rd., Northbrook. Visit pinstripes.com; (847) 480-2323
Deal: 15 per ent off check, Sun.-Thurs.
A hint of Europe. All American. World Wide. The menu at this downtown Evanston eatery and wine/craft beer bar (owned by the folks behind The Stained Glass) is varied to say the least. The Korean Fish Tacos get the highest marks, while Lobster Curry, Watermelon Salad, Salmon en Croute and Grilled Lamb Chops are nothing to look over. Be sure to save room for dessert like the Grilled Cheese, made with pound cake, soft-ripened cheese, rosemary-key lime curd and raspberry jam.
820 Clark St., Evanston. Visit thecellarevanston.com; (847) 864-8678
Deal: 15 per cent off check
Can we call it an empire yet? With 20 locations in the city and surrounding suburbs, the family behind all of the Francesca’s restaurants has the corner on Italian food in the metro area. Inviting and with generational recipes, coming to Francesca’s is like coming home for family dinner on Sunday. And what a spread, starting with Calamari Fritti or Mussels, followed by the Pea Pod, Tomato and Cucumber Salad and entrees such as Conchiglie alla Carrettiera (shell pasta with ham, cheese, peas and wild mushrooms in tomato cream sauce) and Vitello alla Disperata (roasted veal medallions).
1145 Church St., Northbrook. Visit miafrancesca.com; (847) 559-0260
Deal: Prix fixe menu ($22 for two-course lunch; $33 for three-course dinner)
This sister restaurant of the hopping Chicago location quite literally takes the whole farm, with two floors, two bars and an outdoor patio in warmer months. And more space means more options with an expanded menu that offers beer-battered Wisconsin Cheese Curds, Roasted Amish Chicken, North Star Bison Meatloaf, Leek Risotto and a variety of burgers. Can’t move after this hearty meal? Consider a night at the Hotel Orrington next door.
703 Church St., Evanston. Visit farmhouseevanston.com; (847) 492-9700
Sweety Pies Bakery
Deal: 15 per cent off check
The Krugers know their baked goods. The family owns and operates Sweety Pies bakery, in downtown Skokie, which brings back the Main Street appeal of small artisans that make expert goods. Here, you can order custom cakes, tap into a calendar of cupcakes (February is red velvet), take home signature pies or sit down in the cafe with a cup of Intelligensia Coffee and a platter of cookies, mini cheesecakes, brownies and cinnamon rolls.
8042 Lincoln Ave., Skokie. Visit sweetypiesbakery.com; (847) 213-0900