Who’s says nobody goes out to lunch anymore? Friday lunches first began for me and a friend about three years ago when my friend took time off from work to battle breast cancer. At the time I thought it would be an entertaining way to take her mind off things and fill in some of that extra time she suddenly had.
Turns out those ladies who lunch were onto something. We found the weekly lunch out was so much fun that we decided to maintain the tradition when my friend returned to work after she successfully completed her cancer treatments.
And lunch is a pretty low commitment way to try out a new restaurant.
Since both of us work from home, we have some flexibility. But we don’t like to travel far for these outings, and we usually choose spots in Wilmette, Winnetka and Evanston. What we’ve discovered is that the North Shore has fantastic options for lunch that can be perfect for a quick bite, a long, lingering lunch full of conversation, or an extra special treat.
Below is a round-up of some of our favorite spots.
The Noodle Cafe, 708 12th Street, Wilmette, www.thenoodlecafe.com.
The Noodle Cafe is a small, Italian eatery right in downtown Wilmette, and it always seems to have a bustling lunch crowd. There are specials that frequently include something delicious, such as the blackened shrimp atop a gourmet garden salad, which I had the last time we had lunch at The Noodle.
The menu is true comfort food and there is a lot of flexibility — choose a half sandwich and soup, or half salad and soup — or go with one of the pasta dishes if you are hankering something more filling. This restaurant is one of our favorite spots because the food is good, it’s cozy in the winter, and you can dine outside in the summer. And it’s always fast.
Avli Rotisserie, 566 Chestnut Street, Winnetka, www.avli.us.
Hands down Avli Rotisserie is one of those spots we go when we are craving something meaty. This rotisserie is a cut above. Trust me, you will never want to pick up one of those grocery store chickens again after you’ve eaten Avli’s free-range chicken from Harrison’s Poultry.
A fast-casual restaurant, Avli’s Rotisserie has a selection of pork, chicken and gyros all slow roasted on a rotisserie oven imported from Europe. You can opt to have your meat on a roll, rice or salad, which are all good choices. But FYI, the rolls from Hewn Bakery in Evanston are really delicious. And if the rotisserie isn’t enough to put you over the edge, consider getting the french fries topped with Greek herbs and feta cheese.
Hoosier Mamma Pie Company, 749 Chicago Avenue, Evanston, www.hoosiermammapie.com.
While many people are familiar with Hoosier Mamma’s famous pies, it is also a great spot for lunch. You can belly up to the bar and tuck into one of their savory pies, or opt for the quiche of the day. They also have a few salads and sandwiches on the menu if you are up for something different, but hey, it is a pie company.
Of course it is also the perfect place to enjoy dessert if you are in the mood — in fact just looking at Hoosier Mamma’s large assortment of pies is probably going to put you in the mood. We’ve found their fresh fruit pies to be particularly delicious.
Dowize Bistro, 1107 Central Avenue, Wilmette, www.dowizebistro.com.
If you are in the mood for Thai food or sushi, and want to keep it simple and inexpensive, Dowize is your spot. They’ve got an assortment of lunch specials — all at about $10 and under — that fit the bill for a quick lunch. Take the lunch plate, for $7 you get miso soup, a choice of appetizers and an entree. I am partial to the pad Thai and the spicy kung pal but all the choices are good.
While Dowize is a popular take-out spot as well, the restaurant is spacious, with booths or tables to choose from, and nicely decorated.