Road Tripping: Northwestern

By Joe Beale on June 27, 2013 at 11:30a
Northwestern's Evanston campus, eight miles north of Chicago

What comes to mind when you think of Chicago? The "windy city"? Michael Jordan? Blues music? Really, REALLY good pizza? Harry Carey and the hard-luck Cubs? Steve Bartman? Maybe "da Bears" or "da Bulls"? Bill Murray? The Great Fire? The World's Fair? Perhaps any or all of those things, but probably not the small suburb just north of the "second city", or the university located there with which it is inextricably entwined. 

The city of Evanston was actually founded after the University of Northwestern was built there, and it was named after John Evans, an Ohio native and one of the founders of the university. Northwestern is still a private institution, the only one left in the Big Ten Conference. Its journalism school, Medill, is excellent. If you like read or watch things, you encounter someone that went to Northwestern. Its research and its programs for Engineering and Management are known and respected throughout the world.

As for football, that's a different story. During the 70s, the Wildcats were perennial cellar-dwellers in the Big Ten, and despite a brief run of success in the 90s and a highly-celebrated victory over Michigan in 2000, the program still does not strike fear into the heavyweights of the conference. But fans are hopeful for this year's campaign, and with good reason.

Last season Northwestern won 10 games and earned their first bowl victory since 1949, a 34-20 Gator Bowl triumph over Mississippi State, an SEC team that had dusted Michigan only a year before. The win left them ranked #17 in the final AP rankings and #16 in the final coaches poll. These days, even recruiting is looking up for the Wildcats.

Of course, not having Ohio State on the schedule will help any Big Ten team get to 10 wins a little more easily. Looking at it the other way, not having to play a good Northwestern team helped OSU finish undefeated. No such luck this year, as the Buckeyes must travel to Northwestern for night game on October 5th. If you are going to the game, here are some attractions you might want to check out.


Being the home of a research university, it should surprise no one that Evanston is a center of good places for learning and teaching. If you're into the museum and/or history scene, you will want to check out the Evanston History Center at the Dawes House. The old mansion has been restored and there are docents there who will tell you stories galore about the Dawes family and the other families that lived there. You might also check out the Mary & Leigh Block Museum of Art on the NU campus (for culture lovers) or the Kohl Children's Museum (for large families like mine) in nearby Wilmette.

The Grosse Point Lighthouse is normally a great place to go in Evanston, but unfortunately they don't offer tours in October. You can still go and tour the grounds for free, but you won't be able to go up in the tower. Still, it might be fun to just check out the old structure since you'll be so close.

But then again, you're just eight miles north of the Chicago Loop and you might as well enjoy the big city while you have the chance. The list of attractions in Chicago proper is almost endless, but of special note is the SkyDeck at the top of the Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower) where you can see four states all at once in the panoramic view offered by America's tallest skyscraper. The Windy City has amazing museums and cultural centers, including the Art Institute of Chicago, The Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium and Adler Planetarium, but for my money there's nothing more cultural than chomping down a genuine Chicago hot dog.

Seeing the Michael Jordan Statue is a must and if shopping is your thing, Michigan Avenue has it all. Wrigley Field is located about halfway between downtown and Evanston and although you won't be able to tour it in October, you can still trek to Addison and Clark to experience a great American ballpark.


For lunch in Evanston, hit Edzo's for amazing burgers or Lou Malnati's for pizza. Mustard's Last Stand serves up delicious dogs just feet from the stadium, but it's small and gets packed, so be prepared to wait. To pregame, you can do worse than Bluestone on Central.

The choices for Evanston night life are small but still adequate. The Rhythm Room Bar & Bistro is a jazz and cocktail joint that evokes the Rat Pack sensibilities of the early to mid 60s. For the younger crowd, there's Club Helium. If you're into the BYOB scene and don't mind a little smoke, you can relax at the Kush Hookah Lounge. For a late night dinner in a relaxing bar-style environment, amazing food and a killer beer selection, you could try Andersonville's Hopleaf, which is technically in Chicago but still close to Evanston.

Worth the price of the plane ticket.Cloud Gate, or "The Bean" at night.

The dinner options increase exponentially once you go into Chicago proper. Of course, I prefer one of the pizza options linked above, but if you're into a more sophisticated form of culinary experience, you could try one of the city's famous upscale restaurants like Alinea, Girl & the Goat, Avec, Mercat a la planxa, or Schwa. But if that's too high-brow for you, a seat over at Harry Carey's Italian Steakhouse in Rosemont might feel a little more comfortable.

Just walking around the city at night can be pretty entertaining, and the lights of the city reflecting on the the "Bean" at the Millennium Park can keep your attention for a while. But if you need to do a little dancing and have a drink or two, you might want to check out the Board Room or the Enclave to get your fix. For those who prefer a sports bar, the Public House might be more to your liking. For a great selection of exotic beers, try Maria's Packaged Goods & Community Bar.

Eleven Warriors plans to host an event the night before the game, so stay tuned for details on that, too.

Getting Around

The "L", Chicago's mostly-elevated subway system, is the nation's third busiest and consists of eight lines laid out in a spoke-hub system. Luckily for you, you may only need to use two of the lines: the Red Line, which runs along the lake from the south side of the city to its northern edge, and the Purple Line, which you will take from the Red Line terminus at Howard to the Central St station, where it's just a short walk to Ryan Field.

You haven't really lived until you've ridden a train full of Buckeye fans singing and O-H—I-Oing into Evanston, but be sure to make a practice run on the "L" before your trip up for the game. Thousands of Ohioans unfamiliar with mass transit can make for long lines at the station following the game.

There are plenty of cabs in Chicagoland and although the driving may scare some, the meters run slower than they do in Columbus, so there's that.

Whatever your taste or speed, you will find something that suits you in Chicago. The only problem (besides running out of spending money) is you may find that you don't want to leave. It will take you a good week and then some to do everything that you want to do there, so keep that in mind when you plan your trip. The football game is a fun time, but it will probably be a small footnote if you get to stay for a while and experience all the city has to offer.


Comments Show All Comments

chitownbuckeye's picture

I love Chicago, I have been here for 17 years now.  I am originally from Cleveland Hts, I graduated from Cleveland St. Joes.  I went to high school with Desmond Howard, Elvis Grabac and Eric Riley.
For a list of things to do and see I recommend going to Timeout Chicago or Metromix Chicago. I also recommend using for restaurants and drinks

Oyster's picture

I always thought your screen name was in reference to ChinaTown?

"Scrolling hurts my finger"

(and FitzBuck was clearly the winner)

chitownbuckeye's picture

There is a China town in Chicago.  Chitown is another name Chicago.

BrewstersMillions's picture

That no self respecting Chicagoan uses.
I kid of course-you get a pass having not been born here!

harleymanjax's picture

We truck drivers call it Shitcago

"Because I couldn't go for 3"

babbski's picture

Funny...I spent 13 years there and now live in Cleveland Heights. Loved every minute of it.
Eater is a great resource for finding good restaurants and bars. Yelp is pretty good too.
Also, the Hopleaf is something all beer fans should experience.

osubuck57's picture

Wish I had something negative to say about them, but like Northwestern and what Fitz is doing with the football team. Excellent school!!


northcampus's picture

The best Big Ten road trip by far.  Bloomington is probably second (a distant second).  Stay downtown, ride the train to Evanston, and you can get dropped off a short walking distance from Ryan Field.  Outside of the game festivities, Shaw's Crab House is a great dining experience.  I wouldn't go back to the ESPN Zone if someone offered to pay for my food.  NU is my second favorite Big Ten university and I wouldn't have an issue if my kids chose to attend NU over OSU.

BrewstersMillions's picture

Greatest city in the world in my humble, biased opinion. Chicago has everything for everyone. Anyone who is heading to the Second City for the NU beatdown-have fun! MY cousin and I will be there with our significant others-it'll be my first time seeing OSU live since the opener against NIU in 2005.

chitownbuckeye's picture

I would disagree about the Chi-town statement.  It used quite commonly.
Chicago is in my top 5 of best in World.  I would take a few cities before Chicago.

BrewstersMillions's picture

Hey, I'm not saying the comment isn't used. I'm saying it shouldn't be. It is an awful nickname.

CC's picture

It's better than people in Annapolis calling it 'Naptown'. 

Oyster's picture

Or building a school in a town named after a whore...

"Scrolling hurts my finger"

(and FitzBuck was clearly the winner)

chitownbuckeye's picture

Are you in Chicago?  What part?  I live in Wicker Park.

BrewstersMillions's picture

I'm a suburbanite now. Oak Forest specifically. I lived in Wrigleyville-which for a Sox fan was tortureous- for 5 years after college and spent my first 14 years on the Southside-63rd & Rutheford.
Wicker Park is an awesome area, paint me a little jealous!

Ahh Saturday's picture

Funny, I'm another transplant from the Heights.  I lived in Wicker Park back in the 90s, but fatherhood has moved me up to Lincoln Square.

chitown buckeye's picture

Ahhh CHITOWNBUCKEYE... So we meet again! I approve of the use of Chitown.
I am in the South burbs, Flossmoor. Have a buddy of mine who use to live in Wicker Park, love that area! Great bars and nightlife in the area.
Been to OSU/NW game a few times when the Bucks have come to town. It's nice to get up there to watch the game although atmosphere isnt real great as tailgating is typically pushed out to the lake and need to be shuttled to the game.  I typically use the game as a way to convince family/friends to come to town. The game typically turns into a side note to take advantage of the great city! Lots of good stuff to do.

"I'm having a heart attack!"

Jonnferrell's picture

Doesn't Northwestern put single game tickets on sale soon?  I know the dealers have them, but I would almost rather buy a NW season ticket than buy one game from a dealer.

"I miss Brady Hoke."

chitownbuckeye's picture

I called them yesterday, they said in July they should be on sale.

hail2victors9's picture

You won't have any trouble buying a single-game ticket from the website, the day they go on sale.  I'm with you 100%, though.  I will never buy tickets from a secondary-market ticket broker (Ticketmaster is bad enough).  If you have to buy on the secondary market, Craigslist is by far the way to go, you just have to be smart and trust your instincts.

Those who stay will be CHAMPIONS!

~Bo Schembechler

pjtobin's picture

How do we go about getting tickets to away games? I would love to go see an away game. Is it within reason to drive there to watch the game and back after the game is over? Or do you all recommend staying somewhere? 
On a side note, I am a little worried about this game. I don't think our boys will overlook anyone this year. At least I hope they don't. One game at a time guys. Play every opponent with respect. And crush their hopes and dreams with a no huddle offense. Then give them nightmares for life with the best defense in the nation. IMHO !

Bury me in my away jersey, with my buckeye blanket. A diehard who died young. Rip dad. 

BrewstersMillions's picture

Fear not. I know a lot of us humble, Midwestern types thrive on humility and what not but this Ohio State team is going to be nasty this season. Nothing wrong with admitting when your team is the goods. NU has a nice little thing going but it needs to be looked at relative to their capability. They may knock off a Michigan or Sparty or something (if they play) but they aren't going to be capable of besting one of the few elite teams in the nation-barring a rash of injuries or an absolute shit show that Meyer coached teams seldom have, this game is going to be a savage beating bordering on felonious assault. Sticking to OSU 42, NU 14.

TraditionCounts's picture

Lived in Evanston for 10 years so feel somewhat qualified to comment.  Downtown Evanston (just two stops off the purple line before the stadium at Central) has some amazing places to eat and bar hop. 
If you're with family, I highly recommend stopping at the Lucky Platter on Main Street which has fantastic comfort food.  The sweet potato fries are ridiculous.  Just around the corner from Lucky Platter on Dempster is Cross Rhodes (Greek) which has killer gyros and other home-made Greek cuisine.  Try the lemon fries (again with the fries!!??).  Yeah, they are something special.  If you're looking to get hammered in the downtown area, there's no better spot than Keg of Evanston on Grove St.  I cannot tell you how many nights (and some days) had me stumbling out of there not entirely sure what had just happened.  And lastly, Tommy Nevins Pub.  Classic Irish restaurant/bar with live music and that laid back atmosphere you might be looking for before getting ugly at the stadium.  Last time I was there, Bono was just leaving.  Seriously.
The great thing about Evanston (and Chicago in general) is that you can get hammered pretty much anywhere, and have no need for a car at the end.  The purple/red lines should be able to get you safely to most places you'll need while visiting.  Just don't go too far south on the red line after hours or it can get dicey :-)

TraditionCounts's picture

Tears in my eyes.  Seriously.

Dougger's picture

Great comment. IMO Gyros may be the best drunk food ever, and with your recommendations, I don't think I'll have any problems.

I like football

BUCK-I-FAN's picture

gyros are the best buzz food ever. Or better yet the kebabs ( they are basically Gyros) I use to get get while stationed at lakenheath.

harleymanjax's picture

Nothing beats Skyline Chili at 2am!

"Because I couldn't go for 3"

chitownbuckeye's picture

I also recommend stopping by Few small distillery with amzazing products.  918 Chicago Ave.

MN Buckeye's picture

The reference to the 1893 World's Fair reminded me of a great nonfiction book I read a couple years ago entitled, The Devil in the White City, by Erik Larson.  It was a very interesting story of a serial murderer, but it gave a lot of insight into the early politics and history of the city.  I thought it was a great read.

ArTbkward's picture

When I saw the link to the World's Fair, I immediately thought of The Devil in the White City as well.  I second your sentiment, it is a fantastic read and would highly recommend it.  It's nonfiction/ true crime that reads as fiction. It will probably make you want to visit Jackson Park while you're in Chicago.

We should strive to keep thy name, of fair repute and spotless fame...

(Also, I'm not a dude)

Joe Beale's picture

I just finished reading The Devil in the White City a couple months ago. Great book. 

BeijingBucks's picture

Chicago is my home town and it always feels good to go back there.  They've done fantastic work downtwn in the loop, the magnificent mile and along the lake.  a truly green city.
Best bar view has to go to Signature Lounge on the 96th floor of the Hancock Building.  at night city looks simply gorgeous.  expect to find hot people and don't go without your Visa Card.
for the more family types:
Field Museum also has 'Sue' if ur kids wanna see a complete T Rex in all her glory.  sadly no T Rex burgers or BBQ... missed opportunity?
agreed on the shout out above to the excellent elevated train/subway system

None can love freedom heartily, but good men; the rest love not freedom, but license. ~ John Milton

One Bad Buckeye's picture

Thankfully I already bought my tickets and thanks to an enormous amount of input from my fellow 11W's in another similar thread, I've already started planning the details.  
Go Buckeyes!!!

"I'm One Bad Buckeye, and I approve this message."

Jangs78's picture

Good to see fellow Chicago Buckeyes in the comments!  Love the link to Malnati's a born and bred south sider I gotta give a shout out to my favorite, Aurelio's Pizza!

BUCK-I-FAN's picture

Portillo's is a great Italian beef. I believe they are located in the burbs though. Lombard has one.

Ethos's picture

So whatever happened to the rumors of 11warriors doing an away gathering in Chicago for htis game?

"I spent 90 percent of my money on women and drink. The rest I wasted." - George Best

Jason Priestas's picture

It was mentioned in the piece. It's still on, but we don't have any details yet, unfortunately.

BeijingBucks's picture

I'm coming back from China for this game!  Make it so #1!!

None can love freedom heartily, but good men; the rest love not freedom, but license. ~ John Milton

BuckChi's picture

I've been living in the Lakeview neighborhood of Chicago for 4 years now (originally from Cincy). Love this town.
One "must do" I would add is taking an architecture boat tour along the Chicago River through the Chicago Architecture Foundation. Its extremely interesting and you get to take in the city on the deck of a boat (with a brew, if you so choose). Its always one of my visitors' favorite things they do here.

argyle182021's picture

I'm in Lakeview too, Lakeview East.

BuckChi's picture

Nice. I'm near Sheffield and Diversey (we go to Vaughn's on Sheffield for all the Buckeye games). Used to live at Broadway and Wellington.

argyle182021's picture

I'm closer to Sheffield and Addison.  I've been to Vaughn's a couple times but never for a game.  Maybe I'll check it out this season, although I'm planning on attending at least three games (including this one against NU).  There are a ridiculous number of Buckeye bars in Chicago - you could easily go to a different one for every game.

Jason Priestas's picture

I would have thought that you live [pulls down shades] near Argyle.

argyle182021's picture

Nice one.  I actually did live near there a few years ago - in Uptown, just south of Montrose.  Check out the Bar on Buena if you're ever in the neighborhood.

BuckChi's picture

Got it. I am looking to go to the Northwestern game as well. Vaughn's is a usually a good time. There is a dedicated core group that is their for every game. Although, this past year it became the Ohio University official alumni bar, so was very crowded when the teams' games overlapped. The Buckeye fans don't have a problem with the Bobcat fans, but they seem to have a problem with us.
I agree about the bars too. McGee's is a bit undergraduate-ish for me. I know a couple of people who go to O'Donovan's on Irving Park and like it. I think I am going to check that out and Gaslight next year.

argyle182021's picture

Gaslight is my favorite of all the ones I've been too.  Never been to O'Donovan's but I've driven by it plenty.  The patio looks great, aside from being situated right on busy Irving Park.  If you think McGee's is undergrad-ish, don't ever consider going to Mickey's on Clark in LP.  Another negative of Mickey's is close proximity to Duffy's, probably the worst bar in Chicago (TTUN pissing hole).  

BuckChi's picture

I'll have to check out Gaslight then. Whole heartedly agree with you about Duffy's (and its counterpart, and Steelers bar, Durkins). Thanks for the info!

Matt Brown's picture

I would recommend avoiding cab service in Evanston. I swear those meters run substantially faster than the ones in the city, and you can use trains (or PACE buses) to get just about anywhere you'd need to go.

For music, take the Red Line down to Fullerton and head to Halsted. Kingston Mines and B.L.U.E.S are both right next to each other there, and if you want an authentic Chicago blues-club experience, that's the place to go.

The Art Institute on Michigan Ave is *outstanding*, but I don't think that's something you want to'll probably want to dedicate multiple hours to it.

Enjoy Chicagoland! It's a hell of a town. Don't forget to eat something besides deep dish pizza and hot dogs.

MassiveAttack's picture

I have been to Chicago four times (business, pleasure, and dragged there as a kid), and I have never had a good time.   It's probably me, but it's true. 
Irregardless, the Northwestern game gives me serious fears as we have so many new faces on defense.  Hopefully we will be able to keep our offense rolling.  I predict a Big-12 style shootout, like the Indiana game last year.

The Ohio State University - "Haters love us!"

TraditionCounts's picture

Mute point you make...

Jason Priestas's picture

I'm not sure that's the word you're looking for (or maybe it is?).

Earle's picture

The point is MOO!

Snarkies gonna snark. 

ArTbkward's picture

Always an upvote for any Friends reference.

We should strive to keep thy name, of fair repute and spotless fame...

(Also, I'm not a dude)

Enzo's picture

What Chicago did to pizza is a crime, which is appropriate for the way the city is run ;)

PlanningBuck12's picture

A group of my buddies and I made the treck to Bloomington last season and had a great time. Sat at Kilroys from 2pm till almost 6. Talking with the bartender. He mentioned that at IU they know they suck at football so everyones friendly. But that all changes come basketball season. One of my bucket list items is to go to every big ten stadium before I die. I've gotten to 5 of the current 12. We're planning on making NU number 6 this season. Really have enjoyed the article and comments. Helps making the trip planning go a lot smoother. Hope to see everyone in Chicago in a few months. 


"Anything easy ain't worth a damn" - Woody Hayes

TeeJayKay614's picture

Just noticed you can buy a NW season ticket for around $150. They have a home schedule that includes scUM and Sparty. Wonder how much of that investment i could get back if i were to sell the rest of the tickets?

okiebuck's picture

Great city; lived there two different times during the 90's. If you don't have a good time it's on you. I agree with Enzo; Chicago style deep dish pizza sucks and Giordanos is the worst of them. Ain't no pizza like NYC pizza!! Go Bucks!

"Fate has cards that it don't want to show"

NapervilleBuck's picture

The only thing i dislike about going to NW for a game is the stadium (dump) and the fact that there is really no place to tailgate.  Agree if coming from out of town that staying in the city and taking the train in is a great experience.  Always a lot of Buckeye fans in town, everyone has a good time.
And c'mon.  Nothing wrong with deep dish.  You can get your delicate thin slice and fold if you want but if a meal is what you are looking for, deep dish is the way to go.
If you want a Chicago food experience, head over to Hot Doug's on Fridays and Saturdays.  Get a couple of Chicago dogs (no ketchup rookie) and duck fat fries.  Man you ain't lived......