My ideal DAYcation in Evanston!


I was honored to be asked by Cara Litke Sullivan of Make It Better magazine to plan an Evanston summer DAYcation -- a day to explore Evanston from morning till evening--which is featured in this month's issue of the magazine! Thanks, Cara and MIB!

I was allowed just 10 stops (that was the catch--there are so many outstanding things to do and see and people to meet in this town!)

So, within MIB's space limitations, here's my DAYcation.

It starts with breakfast at--where else--Curt's Cafe (pick North or South, come for the menu, stay for the mission), heads to a browsing session at Nina Barrett's Bookends & Beginnings (Evanston's only independent book store) and a stop at Evanston's lakefront (space was limited so I couldn't recommend the imperative visit to the beautiful Harley Clarke mansion, which is in danger of being demolished, and which Evanston Lakehouse & Gardens is working so hard to save).

After relaxing or exercising (your choice) at the lake, I recommend cooling off at C & W Market and Ice Cream Parlor on the corner of Church and Dodge for Homer's ice cream and to meet delightful and dedicated owners Clarence Weaver and Wendy Weaver.

Then, on to visit Dino Robinson and Shorefront Legacy Center, which he founded more than 20 years ago, and where he meticulously and devotedly archives history, family stories, photos, and memorabilia from Black families in Evanston and the whole North Shore!

Dino and Shorefront just completed a documentary about the life and legacy of Evanston's living legend, former mayor Lorraine Morton, which is a must-see! Two screenings coming up: Monday, July 30 at 11:30 a.m. at Evanston's Civic Center; and Saturday, August 25 at 3 p.m. at the Evanston Public Library. Both viewings are free and open to the public.

The documentary is 45-minutes long. Don't miss it!

After Shorefront, stop at Aydin Dincer's Prairie Joe's for lunch with a retro-cool and funky-diner vibe.

Then. Head over to Family Focus Evanston to learn about the historic building that has served fifth-ward families for several generations as a hub for living, learning, socializing, and playing.

The building once housed Foster School, the only Black school in Evanston during segregation, which (huge mistake) closed down after busing and desegregation and now houses a wide variety of wonderful organizations -- including Tamara Stewart Hadaway's inspiring one-room school, Kingsway Preparatory School! Oh, and did you know Family Focus has a recently-restored theater too?

The building is currently in danger of being sold outside of the community and a fundraiser in in progress to raise the $5 million needed to save it and keep it in the "family!"

I'm sure Executive Director Colette Allen would show you around--her family has deep Evanston roots and she has many stories to tell.

But wait! Don't leave Family Focus yet, because there's magic being made in the building's basement kitchen, where gourmet bean-to-bar chocolatier, chef, and sunniest person in Evanston Shannon Sudduth mixes up the most outstanding chocolates, candies, cookies, cakes, creole rolls and more for order in person or online from her store Noir d'Ebene Chocolat et Patisserie.

Shannon will always give you a taste of what's cookin', and her confections are stunningly packaged and make great gifts (if you can bear to part with them).

You can also catch her on Saturdays at the farmers market. On certain days, you'll see Shannon working with some of the kids at Family Focus, teaching them the tricks of her delicious trade.

And now it's dinner time, and while Evanston has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to restaurants, if it's summer, I'm magnetically pulled to the roof-top deck of Laura Van Dorf and Daniel Kelch's Five & Dime for the casual food, great drinks, and a vibe that makes my DAYcation into vacation!

Finally, full and feeling good, head to Fleetwood-Jourdain Theatre at the Noyes Cultural Arts Center for some, well, culture.

There you'll meet Artistic Director Tim Rhoze and get to see some outstanding community theater that focuses on African-American and African diaspora stories.

Their current production is the comedic drama Top Dog/Underdog, by Suzan-Lori Parks, which explores the traps of being African American and male in the United States, and offers insights into the role of deception and betrayal in Black men’s lives and the “masks” these men must wear to survive.

The production runs from July 14 to July 29.

Click here for more info about the play, future plays, and tickets!

Whew! What a great day! So much to do, so little time, so many things I couldn't include! Can we stay just one more day?

What didn't I fit in?

All the outstanding arts events and activities, many spearheaded by community arts activist Lisa Degliantoni who runs her Evanston Made endeavor from her home/gallery at 1100 Florence;

Jennifer Eason's to-die-for cooking (can you say mac-and-cheese?) at her restaurant Jennifer's Edibles, Inc.

So many small shops and boutiques to explore,

Amazing productions at Piven Theatre Workshop

A piece of pie at First Slice Pie Cafe, housed in the comfy Gibbs-Morrison Cultural Center, managed ably by Maurice Wilkerson (and which boasts a recording studio named after former 5th ward alderman Delores Holmes).

Heck, shouldn't a DAYcation include a belly-dance class (hello, Malik Turley and Hip Circle Empowerment Center!) and a massage (who's your favorite massage therapist?) and cut or curl or color--looking at you, Aim & Ailie, Ebony Barber Shop Evanston, and too many more to mention) ...

And, hello! Where can a girl (or guy) get a drink? There's never one too far away in this once dry city!

Try Temperance Beer Co., Sketchbook Brewing Company, or Few Spirits, all owned and operated by Evanstonians!

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If you were to organize a daylong tour of Evanston for someone who's never been here, what would you tell them to do? Inquiring minds want to know!


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