Shoutout to my friend Josh, who recommended this place to me as we sat in the outdoor eating area of The Vortex, back in summer 2014. I didn’t forget, it just took me a long time to get myself out here.
Craving Mediterranean but don’t want to resort to the go-to restaurants near campus? Sure, Naf Naf, OMG (Olive Mediterranean Grill) and The Olive Mountain are all fine, but I’m looking for something…homey. Something comforting.
Luckily, I’ve got a new option for you, if you feel like escaping the college town bubble, in search for food that is quick and filling, something you can cop for under $10.
Cross-Rhodes is a Greek restaurant located on Chicago Avenue, just a block south of Evanston’s Main Street.
This cozy family restaurant, which opened in 1984, goes undiscovered by most Northwestern students, probably because few are willing to venture out as far as Main Street, which is a 20-minute walk from campus.
Personally, I think it’s worth the walk, but if you insist on getting there more quickly, it will only take you three minutes to walk from the Main Purple Line station and the Intercampus Shuttle drop-off location at Chicago/Main. (You’re welcome.)
I went with Maddy on a Thursday night. Before we even made it into the restaurant, we were stopped dead in our tracks by the “CASH ONLY” sign taped to the door, so we asked the guy at the counter, and he told us about the ATM in a parking garage just steps away from the restaurant.
What a time to be alive.
After withdrawing some cash, we walked in and picked a table towards the front of the restaurant. Blue and white stringed lights lined the walls. The dinner crowd consisted mainly of families and older Evanston residents.
Though we received an ample portion of hummus, I would not recommend the hummus and pita ($4) overall, because it really showcased the hummus, but downplayed the pita. The single — though large — piece of pita that Maddy and I split didn’t justify the cost. However, I enjoyed the smooth and pronounced chickpea flavor of the hummus, which came with a drizzle of olive oil.
Reasonably, we ran out of pita sooner than we ran out of hummus, so we resolved the predicament by dipping our Greek fries ($2.50) into it. These hearty steak fries were topped with a tangy, salty sauce made with herbs, lemon juice and white wine. The fries grew mushy towards the end of the meal, and the last few ones at the bottom soaked up all of the sharp-smelling and –tasting sauce, but overall, the side was worth the large portion we received.
Maddy and I both ordered the gyro ($6) with lamb and beef, which came highly recommended by online reviews. Flavorful strips of lamb and beef, sliced hot off a rotisserie, were topped with sliced onions and tomatoes. The whole mass was then drizzled in a creamy tzatziki sauce, all enveloped in a moderately-sized toasted pita and wrapped in foil.
The portions? Generous. The flavors and textures of the innards? Harmoniously balanced, with the warm chewiness of the meat contrasting the crisp and pungent taste of the vegetables.
And if you’ve got a hankering for something sweet after you’ve all but inhaled the delicious savory food, consider dessert. Cross-Rhodes has a small selection of cakes and baked goods on display at the front counter, including some slices of chocolate fudge torte cake and carrot cake that I was eyeing the whole time we were there.
All in all, the authenticity of Cross-Rhodes reveals itself through the traditional menu and the simple-but-bold dishes.
Next time – there WILL be a next time – I’ll order the Souvlaki dinner (pork and chicken skewers) or the Greek-style chicken or the Mousaka dish. Or the country-style pita, which consists of meat and vegetables topped with feta cheese, Greek fries and tzatziki sauce. Bruh.
Or the CHARBURGER, which is made with a half-pound of freshly-ground beef.
Alarmingly, Cross-Rhodes is listed fifth for Mediterranean restaurants that pop up when I searched “Mediterranean restaurants in Evanston” on Google. This needs to change.
But then again, I’m alright with this place staying a hidden gem…
913 Chicago Ave, Evanston, IL 60202