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Evanston’s Best Lunch Spots
January 27, 2023
There was much rejoicing last year when ETHS Administration allowed all grade levels to leave campus for their lunch blocks. For years, upperclassmen were the only ones allowed to leave, but sophomores have been included in that group this year. This led to a whole host of new lunch options besides the hot lunch that is so often ridiculed by students. These are the top lunch spots around ETHS, as voted by the students.
Winner: Chipotle Mexican Grill
Founded in 1993 in Denver, Colorado, Chipotle is arguably the most well-known and well-loved Mexican/American fast food chain in the country. Chipotle was founded by Steve Ells with the goal of serving quality food made with quality ingredients very quickly. “Steve founded Chipotle more than 23 years ago with a powerful vision to use great ingredients prepared skillfully by hand, but served very fast,” said the lead director on Chipotle’s board. The chain has since grown to be one of the largest in the U.S., with over 2,200 stores across five countries.
Although the menu is not extremely diverse, Chipotle is successful because of the many diverse variations on their relatively few menu items, the most popular being their burritos, burrito bowls and tacos.
Ordering at Chipotle is not as simple a process as it is at other restaurants. You first tell the employee making your food what kind of meal you want, (i.e. burrito, taco, quesadilla) then what protein you want, then you proceed to tell a different employee who completes your order with whatever other toppings you might want (things like cheese, lettuce, guacamole, or salsa). After toppings, a third employee will help you check out. This is the person you ask for chips or a drink. Although this might seem intensive compared to other fast food restaurants in the same market, the process seems to noticeably decrease the time it takes to get your food, as per the goal of creating a higher quality, faster fast food experience.
The Chipotle location in Evanston sits at 711 Church St, near the main branch of the Evanston Public Library. This location in central Evanston is a valuable tool since one of Chipotle’s largest markets is for people who just want a quick lunch or dinner. The speed and customization-based model that Chipotle does business through is ideal for ETHS students looking for a quick lunch during the school day.
The inside of the Evanston Chipotle is quite small, with about 10 or so tables, a soft drink machine, an area with stools facing out of the window and the counter where your food gets made. But to quote ETHS freshman Spencer Barbaro, “the lights, tables and even walls are made of exposed metal which is kinda weird.”
Luckily, the unusual styling of the interior is more than made up for by the scrumptious fast food. In regards to his burrito, freshman Francis Lang says, “mine was wrapped questionably, but the steak was great, it tasted delicious.”
Chipotle is not very old in the scheme of major food chains, but they’ve been around long enough to have found a market, and perfected a business model. The Evanston location is a prime example of what Chipotle as a chain is. Fast, quality food and the perfect place to go during your lunch break.
Runner-Up: Potbelly Sandwich Shop
Potbelly, founded in 1977, is conceivably the best lunch spot in Evanston due to its delicious food and intriguing Chicago history.
Potbelly started as an antique store in Lincoln Park when, owner, Peter Hastings had the wondrous idea of serving sandwiches to his customers. Six years later, the shop reopened as Potbelly, a sandwich shop, named for the antique shops’ potbelly stove that was used to create toasted sandwiches. After the shop was bought by a loyal customer in 1996, it quickly expanded all across Illinois and, before long, across the country.
Potbelly’s menu ranges from soups and salads to sandwiches that are superior. Some of the restaurant’s most-ordered items include the Mediterranean, Grilled Chicken Club, Pizza Melt, Turkey, and the make-your-own option.
“Potbelly is my favorite place to go for lunch,” says sophomore Jenet Luning. “I like to get the chicken salad sandwich. The milkshakes are also very good.”
Potbelly’s milkshakes are a hit, with basic flavors such as vanilla, strawberry, chocolate, and even oreo—they never disappoint. There’s also the iconic accent, the cookie on the straw which excites everyone.
The Potbelly in Evanston stands at 630 Davis St near Evanston’s Fountain Square. Being near a very popular part of Evanston is a huge benefit, especially since it’s near ETHS. The quick & easy go up and order then pick up your food is perfect for students during a 45-minute lunch period.
In most Potbellies, there’s a ton of wood giving the restaurant an old-timey vibe. The atmosphere is immaculate once you step through those doors. The warm and cozy environment hits you with its optimity along with the exceptional choices of food to choose from.
“I like Potbelly because it is always reliable,” explains Luning. “You always know what you’re going to get, and it’s fast and never disappointing.”
Out of all the restaurants nearby, Potbelly provides the best service, and the best selection of tasty foods to everyone, especially students out on their lunch breaks.
Third Place: 10Q Chicken
Located in the heart of Downtown Evanston, near Fountain Square, 10Q Chicken is beloved for its unique and delicious chicken-based menu options. Right when I walk in, I’m impressed by the casual, welcoming atmosphere and the way that the restaurant is filled with lively locals—Evanstonians and Northwestern students alike.
Because I’ve never been to 10Q before, I decided to order the signature 10q sandwich, their most well-known menu item. The sandwich is composed of a crunchy panko fried chicken breast on a soft, buttery brioche bun. What really brings this sandwich together is the thin slice of radish on the bun, which, along with the spicy togarashi mayo compliments the sweetness of the bun nicely.
Following the theme of ordering menu items that I’ve never tried before, I order a side of buffalo nacho fries, not sure what to expect. What I receive is a plate of french fries covered in nacho cheese topped with buffalo sauce drizzle and jalapenos. Whether you’re a nacho enthusiast or a fries enthusiast, this side offers the best of both worlds.
If you’re feeling less adventurous and are looking for more classic menu items, 10Q also offers staples like tenders, jumbo wings and Korean BBQ, all at modest and affordable prices.
The service at 10Q is as excellent as the food. My meal comes out so quickly that I feel the need to check that I’m not accidentally taking someone else’s food. It’s also worth mentioning that while the portions are generous, they’re perfectly sized, and I don’t leave feeling like I ate too much or too little.
I spent this whole week summoning all of my self-control so that I don’t run back to 10Q Chicken to order that sandwich again. With its delicious food, casual atmosphere and efficient service, 10Q Chicken stands out as one of Evanston’s best.
Fourth Place: Bagel Art Cafe
My Saturday morning ritual consists of waking up, picking up a friend or two (or sometimes flying solo), and heading to Bagel Art Cafe where I order my usual: Lox n’ Key and a Thai Iced Coffee, and then head to my spot by the lake where I enjoy my delicious bagel and the company of my best friends or whatever album I’m currently loving.
To me, Bagel Art is a hidden gem–tucked away on the corner of Dempster and Sherman–full of wonderful employees where I always feel welcome and am never disappointed by the consistently amazing bagel sandwiches and coffee that they make. Every time I walk in, I am greeted with a kind “Good Morning!” and a beaming smile on the face of an employee ready to take my order–I think they might recognize me by now. As I watch them carefully make my bagel, the anticipation begins and my stomach starts to growl. When they call out my name at the other end of the bagel-making assembly line, I can’t help but smile while sipping on my coffee. The energy inside of the cafe is just the best. Even though I rarely stay there to eat, when I do, I really do enjoy looking out the big windows and listening to other customers ordering what they love. The iconic bright walls and little tables scattered around really contribute to the positive and comforting atmosphere.
Though I’ve tried a few different bagel sandwiches at Bagel Art (they are all phenomenal), the Lox n’ Key is my go-to. The layers of bagel, chive cream cheese, tomato, onion, capers, and of course, lox, always hit the spot. A close second, and also one of my frequently ordered items, is the Egg Cheddar n’ Avocado. It’s outstanding. And of course, you can’t go wrong with a simple bagel and cream cheese to pair with whatever your favorite coffee is. I really think that there is something for everyone there with their wide variety of bagels and combinations that they’ve made, and of course, the ones made up by customers.
I am quite loyal to my usual order and haven’t ventured away from the delectable Thai Iced Coffee, but some of my trustworthy and tasteful friends have told me that other lattes and teas are some of the most delightful in town. I think that’s saying a lot, considering the other wonderful cafes scattered around Evanston.
One main reason why Bagel Art is so special to me is its location. Dempster Street (and the surrounding area) is full of some of Evanston’s best places to grab a bite of food. With Bagel Art for breakfast/lunch, Union and Union Squared for dinner, and Frio Gelato for dessert, I’d say you can’t go wrong. The Mexican Shop is also right down the street, a sweet store with something for everyone. It’s in the best part of Evanston, a few blocks away from the lake, and walking distance from downtown, it doesn’t get better than that.
Bagel Art has seen me on my great mornings, and on days when I need a pick-me-up, and has never failed to make me happy. It has truly become one of my comfort places in Evanston, and though I’m new to going at least once a week, I don’t plan on ending this tradition of mine anytime soon. I hope that I’ve convinced you to take a trip to Bagel Art and give a wonderful Evanston-local cafe a try.