Jilly’s Cafe is intimate. That has always been part of its charm. Everything about the one-room, French-inspired bistro is designed to delight, from the bottles of wine lining the shelf at the entrance to the cafe-style shutters running along the top of the front window to the salmon-colored stucco walls and petite chandeliers. It’s a lovely mixture of warmth and whimsy.
That was Eda Nar’s main goal when she assumed ownership of the landmark Evanston cafe. Though she changed the color scheme and decor, she didn’t change a thing about the menu. Why would she? The excellent French food is exactly why she bought the place. She began planning to do just that before she left her table the very first time she and her husband dined at Jilly’s Cafe.
“It was the Crispy Goat Cheese appetizer,” she says, completely seriously. “That’s what made me want to buy the restaurant.”
It’s the attention to detail that really stands out. A basket of sliced French baguette greets you at the table with little ramekins of whipped butter and chicken liver pâté, so creamy and sweet when it first lands on the tongue before dissolving into a smooth, savory aftertaste. Between the salad course and the entrees, they serve a house made pinot noir sorbet to cleanse the palate with hints of grape and an elegantly dry resolution reminiscent of its wine namesake.
Though the entire menu is time-tested and every regular has their own favorite, here are three dishes that exemplify the exquisite flavors on display at Jilly’s Cafe.
Jilly’s Cafe is located at 2614 Green Bay Road in Evanston, 847-869-7636, jillyscafe.com.