Bistro Café + Euro Market Coming to Central St. West

An attractively-priced bistro-style café with an exciting menu and multi-use business plan, run by a pioneering North Shore food-and wine expert, is coming to the corner of Central & Ewing. The Central Street Café, targeting a July opening, will give north Evanston and the near-western business district of Central Street in particular even greater diversity in its already-impressive dining offerings.
Proprietor Mitchell Dulin is well-known to connoisseurs of the Chicago food scene as the innovator who challenged restauranting convention in the 1980s with the groundbreaking Chardonnay, an acclaimed French-themed venue that offered good wine without the high markup typical in the US. Dulin then ran the Venice Café, one of the first "fast casual" concept restaurants in Chicagoland, for many years. Last decade he designed, opened, and operated the Tuscan Market & Café, a combo gourmet food market, wine shop, upscale deli and cafe in Arlington Heights. After taking a couple years off to teach budding restaurateurs, Dulin now returns both to his passion, uncomplicated French-Italian food, and to Evanston, a city he knows well.
Central Street already has some top tier Euro fare, with Jacky's on Prairie and Jilly's (on Green Bay) anchoring that bracket, as well as delicious, fast, and inexpensive eats such as Little Island, Old Neighborhood Grill, Sarkis, Prairie Joe's, and Mustard's Last Stand, to name a few. Dulin's new project, which will involve both an exterior and interior makeover of the former Blockbuster movie store, aims for the middle ground, a high-quality but price-friendly café.
I got a sneak peek at the menu and my mouth is still watering. Think  "small plates" like warm baby beets with Boucheron goat cheese and a lavender honey drizzle, or classic bistro fare such as rosemary-garlic lamb chops. Or, for a mid-day lunch meeting, how about artisanal smoked turkey loin on a ciabatta roll with havarti cheese, leaf lettuce and sun-dried tomato mayonnaise?
But, assuming the City Council adapts its liquor ordinance, you won't have to sit down and wait to enjoy the café's offerings. Tucked next to the main room will be an upscale cheese mart/Italian deli plus a small wine shop focusing on small-production wines (and craft beers) at what Dulin says will be "reasonable" price-points. Over 100 cheeses will be offered as well as designer sausages and imported condiments. Utilizing brick and wood uncovered during the gutting of the existing store, the planned decor, as described, will be rich in texture, from the carpeting to the wooden bookshelf-style wine racks and vintage-looking brass lighting.
Area patrons are well familiar with the "crown jewel" village section of Central Street between Hartrey and Green Bay, with the popular Bluestone dominating the night scene and warm-weather weekend walking crowds. The more in-the-know are frequenting the burgeoning arts-and-antique scene east of Green Bay, where, it's hoped, Bluestone's John Enright will open another restaurant this summer in the former transmission shop space at 1801 Central. The nearer west business district, between Bennett and Marcy, is less well-known, but the Central Street Café would actually be the 7th establishment offering a chance to get a meal or a snack in a 2-block stretch.
Current food options in Central Street West include:

  • Casteel Coffee, 2924 Central: opened by the former roasters for the beloved Bean Counter, Casteel not only sells delicious artisanal coffee and a selection of hip crafts goods, but a few muffins and sweets you can enjoy in a cozy in-house seating space.
  • Bonsai Cafe at 2916 Central offers pan-Asian cuisine, over 20 types of maki rolls, and has an 86% "like" rating on
  • Hartigan's Ice Cream, 2909 Central, not only is a classic, independently-owned ice cream shop, beloved by families and students, but offers baked goods and, except in winter, hot dogs.
  • Old Neighborhood Grill, 2902 Central, with one of the friendliest owners and staffs anywhere, offers an eclectic mix of delicious classic American diner and Greek-American fare, as well as a sinfully good Italian beef. Neighbors hope that this summer is the one the beer garden will actually have some beer!
  • Rose's Bakery, 2916 Central, now three years old, is a godsend for those who seek gluten-free bread and pastries, and also has rare egg-free and dairy-free goods, but regardless of how you like your grain products, Rose's satisfies. Some may not know that Rose's has pizza and also a dining space with a full lunch menu, but this is the same place where Daruma attracted diners for many years.
  • 7-11, 2536 Ewing, has no dine-in options nor prepared-on-site fare, but keeps fresh produce, dairy, and that item you need for a recipe within walking distance of MidCentral's residents, while trucking in fresh baked goods and sandwiches daily. And, of course, supplies local yoots with Big Gulp by the gallon. A favorite with local workers and commuters.

As gasoline prices tick ever upward, the trend toward dining more locally will only grow stronger. But with food choices like these, both the economic recovery and the summer can't come soon enough!


Hello Neighbors, Thank you for reminding us of the wonderful food options on Central Street. If we may, we'd like to share with our fellow neighbors what Linz and Vail has to offer. Besides being a favorite coffeehouse for many, and besides having the best gelato in town, we have a limited but delish food menu: Fresh Bagels from NY Bagel & Bialy in Skokie - Locallly Baked Artisan Pastries - Tomato Basil Bisque Soup that has been said to be as good as one gourmet restaurant in downtown Wilmette, Chicken Salad on Mulit-grain, and more. We don't do a lot - but what we do we do well.  Surprised? Come see what you're missing.

The reference to Secret Wilmette Tomato Basil Soup has me stumped -- too in-foodie a reference for this paisan -- but I will vouch for the gelato. Last week, before Easter, L&V had seductive heaps of a purple flavor I'd never seen: "Peeps." Brilliant.
Linz & Vail also generously offers up their front space for live music during most Retail Therapy events. Their barristas are among the most cool-debonair on the Shore. The bulletin board usually has some choice tidbits. And of course there's a 50% chance that any given morning you'll see, in the corner, some power breakfast ongoing. Not sayin' who. Just sayin'.
Did we mention the coffee grounds for your garden? (ask nicely). See, someone is keepin an eye out.
Thanks for checking in, Linz & Vail! You guys rock!

I've been a huge fan of Mr Dulin's ever since Venice Cafe, and I was a regular at Tuscan Market.  I'll definitely be making the trip to Evanston for the new place!