Whether you’re fretting about where to take that cutie you’ve been crushing on in chem for a casual coffee date or looking for a romantic anniversary dinner locale, we’ve got all the details here. We hope you enjoy reading about these date destinations as much as we enjoy writing about them, and that you’ll give some of them a taste.
So, in the spirit of this selection: let's dig in!
Restaurant: The Lucky Platter
Address: 514 Main St. Evanston, IL 60202
Hours: Mon-Sat 7:30 a.m. -9:30 p.m, Sun 7:30 a.m. – 8:30 p.m.
Getting there: About a twenty minute walk south from the Arch, or a two minute walk from the Evanston Main stop on the Purple Line.
The Lucky Platter, located on Evanston’s Main St., isn’t hard to spot. Its quirky scrap-metal sign is indicative of the unique cuisine served inside. So don’t be intimidated by its esoteric air: the Lucky Platter is as unpretentious and homey as a self-proclaimed hippie diner can get.
With a menu ranging from burgers to pumpkin soup to tandoori salmon, the Lucky Platter literally has something for everyone. As far as I can tell, it’s all quality. After eyeing the Tandoori Chicken Sandwich, I had a change of heart and ordered a custom personal pizza. The topping choices are as varied as the rest of the menu, but with a little help from Sarah, I settled on the trio of apples, bacon and feta cheese. As pizza toppings go, apples are comparable to pineapple, adding a fruity and refreshing to twist to the typical dish. The crisp apples, while a bit dry, contrast deliciously with the rich flavors of the bacon and feta, and the quality of the pizza itself is remarkable. Tasty whole grain crust and fresh mozzarella cheese, along with the interesting trio of ingredients, made this one of the best pizzas I’ve had in recent memory. I had a side of macaroni and cheese and again received a unique twist on the classic dish. Red peppers mixed with the cheese lend a mild spice to this typically base menu item. We wrapped up the meal with a rich chocolate pudding that came at our waiter’s recommendation. It had an interesting texture as a result of the dark chocolate ground into it and was topped off with delicious homemade whipped cream; all in all, a rich, filling dessert to top off a tasty but surprisingly light meal.
Our server was friendly and easy to talk to, eager to hold a conversation each time he came by our table. He was happy not only to give us time to make up our minds, but also provided helpful suggestions when we were stumped by our many options. His visits were a little less frequent than I would have liked, but his winning personality made up for it. My water glass was never empty for long; that, for me, is important.
In the Lucky Platter, colorful impressionist-style paintings hang alongside nonprofessional portraits of celebrities and, presumably, artists' family members. The most impressive pieces, however, are the sculptures. A number of them hang in the dining area: giant fish made of coffee cans, a thin man made of scrap and a swooping eagle pieced together from what appear to be tractor parts. The art gives the dining area the feel of a weird aunt’s house, in a good way. Along with the protest songs playing in the background, the art fully supports the hippie-kitsch that Lucky Platter claims to be founded on. The Lucky Platter’s interior is a pleasantly quirky change of pace from most Evanston eateries.
Date Factor (5/5)
Everything about the Lucky Platter screams first date place to me. Good, somewhat adventurous food, a fun atmosphere and a reasonable walk from campus (especially when the weather is nice) make this eatery a hidden gem in Evanston, perfect to share with someone special. Plus, there’s a neat little shop that sells homemade chocolates across the street in case you and your sweetheart need a little post-dessert.
The Lucky Platter’s “funkalicious post-hippie eclectic world cuisine” holds true to its description. The diverse and delicious menu offers a wide range of dishes that are sure to please one’s taste buds. I ordered the Gouda burger with a side of gingered fruit. The burger patty itself, cooked to a delicate medium at my request, was juicy and flavorful – a refreshing contrast to the chunks of charcoal that pass for burgers at the dining halls on campus. The meat was topped with a thick slice of Gouda, which gave the burger a wonderfully smoky flavor, caramelized onion strings, a massive leaf of lettuce and thinly sliced cucumbers, which cut through the heaviness of the burger surprisingly well. The bun, a wonderful sourdough creation, proved substantial enough to absorb all the juices of the burger without disintegrating. I am usually opposed to using silverware when consuming a burger, but this Dagwood-inspired creation required me to bust out the fork and knife. The sacrifice was definitely worth the reward in this case, though. If you go to the Lucky Platter, you have to try the gingered fruit! This side dish consists of a variety of fresh fruits coated in a ginger and cilantro sauce. I felt in turns as though I were eating a Baja-style appetizer, East Asian delicacy or quirky but scrumptious kitchen accident. Every bite brings out a different combination of flavors and textures in the most refreshing way. Worth noting is the Lucky Platter’s extensive breakfast menu which the restaurant serves until 2 p.m. Although neither John nor I chose to order from it, we both seriously considered trying the eggs Benedict served on cornbread instead of an English muffin or the sourdough pancakes. The Lucky Platter’s food appears to be fabulous for any meal of the day.
The Lucky Platter’s servers gracefully walk the fine line between being welcoming and keeping a comfortable distance. The wait staff’s casual attitude puts patrons at ease and they spend almost exactly the right amount of time tableside. I never felt hurried when looking over the menu or eating my food, but I also did not feel neglected or abandoned by my waiter. At times, I would have appreciated a bit more attention, but the service was perfectly sufficient during the lunch-hour rush.
The “post-hippie” portion of the Lucky Platter’s mission statement is most reflected in their atmosphere. The parquet wood floors give the space a 1970s feel, while the variety of paintings that fill the space – ranging from “Lobster Boy Alive” to a portrait of JFK – give the Lucky Platter a distinctly kitschy vibe. Impressive fish sculptures fashioned from industrial cans hang from the ceiling, a unique twist on the classic mobile. The Lucky Platter’s dining area is cozy but creative, a combination that few eateries immediately south of campus seem to be able to capture.
Date Factor (4.5/5)
Although the Lucky Platter is a bit of a trek from campus, it is worth the journey. The walk is refreshing on a pleasant day and the Lucky Platter’s atmosphere makes a great casual brunch or lunch date. The lack of pressure and amazing, adventurous food makes the Lucky Platter ideal for a first date. Serious couples should not be deterred, though. The Lucky Platter has something for almost anyone.
After a series of sub-par dining experiences, we were delighted to find such a gem. The Lucky Platter is quirky, casual and, most importantly, delicious. The menu is practically a foodie’s heaven and south Evanston is an area worth exploring. If the day is especially nice, stop by Raymond Park (on the corner of Lake Street and Chicago Avenue) on your way to or from the Lucky Platter. If you still aren’t convinced you should try out the Lucky Platter, just consider their mint bowl is filled with Jolly Ranchers. Any restaurant that embodies the casual attitude of youth through hard candy deserves a chance.
If you've had an experience at the Lucky Platter or have any suggestions on where we should dine next, feel free to leave a comment below!