We asked three Chicagoland influencers to map out morning-to-night itineraries in the neighborhoods they call home: Evanston, the West Loop, and Hinsdale. Here, writer, community activist and Dear Evanston co-founder Nina Kavin shares her Evanston hit list.
Nina’s Perfect Day
Have a leisurely breakfast at either of Curt’s Cafe’s two locations. Their apricot scones are amazing, and so is their mission: The restaurant on Central Street helps young men in at-risk situations acquire life and job skills; the Dempster Street location works with women.
After breakfast, browse the aisles at Bookends and Beginnings, Evanston’s independent bookstore owned by Nina Barrett and her husband, Jeff Garrett.
When you’re ready to cool off, it’s time for ice cream at C & W Market. Clarence and Wendy Weaver, the store’s community-minded owners, are some of the friendliest people around.
Next, pay a visit to the Shorefront Legacy Center. Founded by Evanstonian Dino Robinson in 1995, Shorefront archives artifacts, photographs, and family memorabilia that depict the lives of African Americans on Chicago’s North Shore.
For lunch, make your way to Prairie Joe’s, a funky retro restaurant owned by Aydin Dincer. Eating here is like eating in your coolest friend’s kitchen, and the food is hearty and delicious.
After lunch, pop into Family Focus for a quick history lesson. Built in 1905, the building holds an enormous historical and present-day significance for Evanston’s black community. It housed the city’s only African American school during the years of segregation and was the first school in Evanston to allow black teachers (you can see a fascinating exhibit about this on the building’s first floor). Before you leave, stop at Noir d’Ebene Chocolat et Patisserie, located in the basement. Owner Journey Shannon’s tiny “Skye’s Coconut Macaroons” are the best I’ve tasted.
Ready for dinner? Five & Dime is the place. Husband-and-wife team Laura Van Dorf and Dan Kelch serve up eclectic fare and great drinks, and the rooftop deck makes you feel like you’re on vacation.
Finally, see a show at the Fleetwood-Jourdain Theatre. Housed in the Noyes Cultural Arts Center, FJT offers an annual summertime season of African American and African diaspora-centered storytelling. This summer’s plays include “From the Mississippi Delta” by Endesha Ida Mae Holland, “Topdog/Underdog” by Suzan-Lori Parks, and “Crowns” by Regina Taylor.
Nina Kavin is a writer and community activist who co-founded Dear Evanston, a social media platform and action-oriented entity that seeks to engage Evanstonians in constructive dialogue and action around issues of racial equity and youth gun violence and to tell the stories of Evanstonians whose voices are less-often heard. She holds a B.A. in English literature from the University of Chicago and has worked on racial and social justice issues since her 20s. Kavin and her family have lived in Evanston for 21 years.