Well, it finally felt like a summer weekend in Evanston, right? It’s about time!
I really don’t mean to sound bitter and annoyed (but I am…a little). It’s just been QUITE a challenging season, weather-wise.
I’ve read the updates from Camp Echo (where my daughter is), describing all the rain they’ve endured this past week. Bless the heart of the lovely Camp Echo newsletter writer for always putting a positive spin on the camp’s activities: unfortunately, there are only so many ways to describe monsoons in an upbeat manner. While our daughter’s been out of town, we’ve missed her terribly. Without her, I’ve been the only girl in the household, and it’s been harder than I imagined.
The boys and I did manage to attend two incredible Evanston activities this past weekend. The first was a 15th wedding anniversary party Saturday night thrown by some friends living on Monroe Street; not surprisingly, they were cool enough to convince the band that played at their wedding to come out of retirement and play again for the occasion. If you’re a fan of Rockabilly music, you know about The Riptones. I hadn’t heard of them, but now I’m hooked. The Riptones played on the hosts’ screened-in porch while guests dined on delicious potluck appetizers and meats grilled by a friend. The next door neighbors offered their backyard basketball court as a dance floor, so guests danced under the stars while some of us got to swing to the tunes (literally!) on a backyard swing hanging from a beautiful tree limb. It was a perfect night, topped off with homemade desserts and a delicious chocolate cake from Bennison’s Bakery. I got teary more than once looking around at all the lifelong Evanstonians. One neighbor/guest remarked on the variety of live music he hears on the block: “Tonight it’s the Riptones,” he said, “and…last week, I came out to hear my neighbor play with his [bagpipe playing] friends.” Only in Evanston, right?
Our second weekend highlight was the Sunday night dinner we enjoyed at Tapas Barcelona; ironically, our 8-year-old son suggested it. I believe his words were, “Can we please go to that place where they serve that sauce with the bread I like to dip?” The Queso De Cabra Con Tomate at $5.95 is such a great deal…and it’s a guaranteed crowd pleaser, no matter who’s dining. Seriously…tomato sauce with goat cheese and you’re golden. If you’ve ever been to Café Ba-Ba-Reba in Lincoln Park, you’ve got to try this. It’s better!
I’ll admit, I’d never even tried goat cheese until I was in my twenties, so here I was with my husband and sons who requested calamari and goat cheese without flinching. Only in Evanston, right?
Tapas Barcelona was PACKED. Apparently, there was a Groupon for the restaurant, so we waited 25 minutes for an outdoor seat (on a Sunday), but it was absolutely worth it. There’s something so kitschy sitting at a Spanish restaurant in the lobby of a home for seniors, seated on the edge of a cool blue pool open only to residents of The North Shore Retirement Hotel. The service was fantastic, the food was delicious and creative, and the atmosphere was festive.
The only downer of the weekend (and I know I’ll catch flack for this) was our dinner Friday night at Trattoria D.O.C. It’s our neighborhood Italian restaurant and we’d tried it out when it first opened years ago. Admittedly, our first visit wasn’t pleasant, but we chalked it up to the place being new and still finding its roots. At the time, the service was spotty and the food somewhat bland. We’ve noticed it’s hung around for awhile, so we decided to give it another try.
Trattoria D.O.C. was hopping on Friday night when we arrived, so we were encouraged. The service was much better than it was on our first visit, but the overall experience was a huge disappointment. The wood-fired pizza seemed soggy and the food was still bland. Worst of all, a $100 tab for a family of four is just too much to justify ever going back – and we hadn’t even ordered a bottle of wine OR dessert. The décor left so much to be desired (like ceiling tiles that remind me of an elementary school classroom). As we walked out, we wondered why the restaurant seems to be such a popular destination. Perhaps we’ve been spoiled by all the other amazing Evanston dining choices?
Well, after that feeding frenzy of a weekend, I think I’ll spend the next week walking along the lakefront eating rice cakes and lettuce leaves.