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Photos courtesy of Ten Mile House.

Evanston, already the North Shore’s primary restaurant destination, keeps expanding the offerings; this time, with a bit of a history lesson thrown in for good measure.

Way back in 1836, a Major Edward Mulford opened the original Ten Mile House, which—as it combined an inn, post office, tavern, and courthouse—became the de facto center of what eventually became the City of Evanston. It was the first real public gathering spot around these parts.

Everything Old is New Again

Fast forward 178 years or so. A team of restaurant vets—Robert LaPata (La Petite Amelia, Uber Burger and Omaggio), Joe Krouse (Unite Urban Grill) and Frederic Gale (Lettuce Entertain You)—band together to create a new Ten Mile House on Evanston’s Central Street, and once again, the people gather. But this century, the people drink craft beers and cocktails while feasting on freshly smoked meats and wood oven-fired pizzas.

Yes, the crowds have already descended on this welcoming storefront, which is lined with floor-to-ceiling windows on two sides, with rustic wood floors underfoot and trendy lighting with echoes of yesteryear above. At peak times, they’re two deep around the bar, clamoring for one of the Evanston-centric cocktails ($11), like the zesty E-Town Mule (FEW Bourbon, ginger beer and fresh lime) or the Canal Shores (Death’s Door Gin, peach preserves, fresh lime and sage), named for the nearby golf course, and happily not too sweet.

Start the Journey

You’ll want to start your Ten Mile journey with a single dish: the Gruyere Fondue Gratin ($8), a melty and gooey delight, served (literally) bubbling hot from the wood-fire oven, filled with mushrooms, leeks and thick-cut bacon, and ready to party in your mouth. Smear some on a slice of grilled baguette and dig in…everyone else here is on the same wavelength. No shame in it.

We really enjoyed the Angry Shrimp ($14), though truth be told, they’re more like mildly ticked off. Certainly not too spicy, but still delicious, five plump shrimp in a spicy-ish garlic sauce on a bed of Grana Padano polenta.

You can get your fry on here with the Smoked Chicken Wings ($10), basted with TMH wing sauce, citrus juice and Aleppo pepper and served with house-made ranch dressing. They are full-flavored, but could be crispier. The Cheese-Stuffed Tater Tots ($6), though tasty, are in no way tater tots other than that they are made with potatoes. They are more enormous mashed potato croquettes, stuffed with jalapeno cheddar and jack cheeses. Of course, we made short work of them anyway, especially when dipped in the shallot- and balsamic-infused ketchup.

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Chili Goes South—to Mexico

I was impressed with the Smoked Brisket & Pork Shoulder Chili ($4/$6), given a Mexican update with hominy, lime crema, queso fresco and pico de gallo. For you salad fans, I’d take a pass on the Seared Baby Romaine ($8), a hodgepodge of flavors with a nondescript avocado dressing, but I’d order the Herb-Basted Grilled Salmon Salad ($16) again in a heartbeat. Perfectly cooked salmon perches on a bed of mixed greens, asparagus, artichoke hearts, fingerling potatoes and crumbled French feta and gets a drizzle of lemon-garlic vinaigrette, just the right amount of acid to cut through the salmon’s richness.

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Sandwiches are big, and here you’ll find the deeply yummy Ten Mile Gyros ($12), made with roasted leg of lamb rather than the pressed gyro “meat” found elsewhere, served on house-made griddle bread with herby chimichurri, cucumber and Greek yogurt. The skin-on fries were crisp and well seasoned, not too salty, and the spicy bread and butter pickles won me over (I usually detest sweet pickles, but a little heat seemed to do the trick). The Fried Chicken Sandwich ($14) had a lot going for it but was under-seasoned.

Time for a Smoke

Smoked meats take pride of place on the menu. Fatty and meltingly tender house-smoked brisket shows up thrice—in the chili; the Brisket Sandwich ($14) with Gruyère, roasted onions and pickled peppers on grilled sourdough; and as a pizza topping option, while smoked chicken makes four appearances and the smoked pork appears in many guises (shoulder, ribs, tenderloin). Did I mention thick-cut bacon? That’s here too, in abundance.

But there’s also a Wood-Roasted Lake Trout ($17), served with chimichurri, broccolini and roasted garlic; a few vegetarian entrées and sides; and quite decent pizza (it takes awhile to get the timing just right in a wood-burning oven), so you’ve got options aplenty. There’s something for everyone on this menu.

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Right now, they’re bringing in desserts, but the Warm Chocolate Cake is molten and rich, especially if you ask for the coffee chip ice cream on top instead of vanilla. It’s the way to go.

Try to avoid stopping by on big NU game days/nights at the nearby Ryan Field and Welsh-Ryan Arena, because the place gets crazy busy. But sports fans will be happy to know there are a number of big screen TVs in the bar area, so you’re never far from the score. Super Bowl AND a brisket sandwich? I am so there.

3.5 out of 5 stars (B+)

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Ten Mile House
1700 Central St.
Evanston
847-905-0669