A Day In Evanston

On a clear summer day, I was able to take Bugaboo for a one-on-one day trip to Evanston, Illinois.  We were actually there so that Bugaboo could participate in an experiment at Northwestern University!  However, I didn’t want to waste the trip, and there had been several things I wanted to do in Evanston, so we made a day of it.  We drove through quiet, tree-lined neighborhoods of small, post-war houses.  Young mothers were pushing strollers and double strollers around almost every corner.  I was antsy with anticipation during the miles long drive from the 294 Highway to the lake shore.

Hoosier Mama Pie Company

Any time the Chicago Tribune has a listing of the top places to eat in Chicago (always “Chicago” never “the Chicago area” – they make a point of ignoring the suburbs) they always mention Hoosier Mama Pie Company and Dollop Coffee.  While I don’t like going to downtown Chicago more than I have to, I dream of going to many of the places that the Tribune calls out.  Since Hoosier Mama has come up pretty much every year, it was not only on my Chicago bucket list, but I had the name and location memorized.

Getting to Hoosier Mama in Evanston is easy if you have a GPS, and who doesn’t.  As you drive Chicago Avenue going north, there is an AMLI apartment complex to the right.  Before you hit Kedzie street, there is a sign that says, “Retail Parking.”  Go into that garage, and you can park for free.  However, when I visited at 10:30 AM on a weekday, almost all the slots were full!  The next best place to park would be on the street on Kedzie.

Picking a Piece

All the pictures I have seen of Hoosier Mama and Dollop Coffee must be taken by very clever professional photographers.  When I strolled in with Bugaboo, my first impression was of how crowded it was.  The high ceilings and crowds make for a noisy environment – not what I usually look for in a café.  It is aesthetically pleasing, though.  The walls are covered in chalkboard menus where brightly colored chalk details the day’s offerings.  Slices of pie are $5-6, meat pies are $6-7, and little hand pies are $3.  Coffee drinks run about the usual prices – $4 or more for a small latte.

The pie shop is known for its Hoosier sugar cream pie, and someday when I visit Indiana I would like to try that.  However, today I was faced with samples of the pies available for sale, and the sugar cream pie just didn’t look as good as some of the others.  Not wanting to give in to my go-to choice of chocolate cream, I was intrigued by the banana cream pie with flecks of vanilla bean in the cream.  I ordered an iced mocha latte, a slice of banana cream pie to eat with Bugaboo right away, a slice chicken pie to go, and a slice of apple pie for my husband.

“Filling” Good

Hoosier Mama opens up onto a beautiful, tiny patio.  The buildings behind you block the rising sun, and cool shadows fall across the paving stones.  People sit and sip coffee and eat pie in the chairs set out on the patio.  I rolled Bugaboo out to the patio but couldn’t find a table.  I sat on the stone edge of a planter with her facing me in her stroller.  The banana cream pie was good!  There were large chunks of banana and pudding, and of course the vanilla bean cream.  I found the pie crust – probably the most important component – to be uninteresting.  The thick outer crust was hard to eat, so I didn’t give any to Bugaboo.  The entire experience was satisfying, but not earth shattering.

We later felt the same about our slices of chicken pie and apple pie.  The crust left us wanting more – dare I say it wasn’t salty enough?  Or light enough.  The chicken pie had a good flavor (even lukewarm by the time I ate it), and Bugaboo seemed to like it a lot.  But it left me missing my homemade chicken pies which are saltier.  The apple pie filling was well seasoned – more so than you would get out of a pie at a store.  The apples were well baked and soft.

Another disappointment was my mocha, and that wasn’t Dollop Coffee’s fault.  I had a few nice sips of the iced mocha I ordered, then sat down to eat my pie.  Usually banana and chocolate flavors mix well together.  However, this time the sugar in the pie overrode the mocha taste in my mouth.  As soon as I started eating the pie, I could no longer taste my mocha, and I finished the drink without ever fully experiencing that mocha taste again.  The mocha appeared to have a high caffeine content, because I was pretty glib and jittery for the rest of my stay in Evanston.

Grosse Point Lighthouse Beach

Our next stop was Grosse Point Lighthouse and park.  We took the last parking spot left and unloaded.  Ahead of us was a beautiful sandy beach.  To one side was the lighthouse itself and to the other was a small park with children’s playground and picnic tables.  The large shade trees crowded out views of the lighthouse tower itself.  Entry to the house is $6.  Because it was just me and Bugaboo today, I decided not to go inside.

We walked down to the beach – it was a beautiful sunny day, and the beach was fairly crowded.  It was good to see some lifeguards on duty.  I couldn’t push Bugaboo’s stroller through the sand, so we turned around.  I hope to come back to this park someday with my husband – we will visit the lighthouse and spend more time at the beach then.

Since Bugaboo is not quite one, it was most logical for us to focus our attention on the playground this visit.  The playground looks friendly to younger children – it had sloping angles rather than harsh up and down climbing walls that some of the larger playgrounds have.  There were accessible swings on one side, but the straps were all broken, which was a disappointment.  On the other side, in the shade, the baby swings were full.  There was an airplane toy, though.  I set Bugaboo down in the airplane and rocked her a bit – but it was wobbly and I had to be careful.

We removed to the shady picnic tables to share our chicken pot pie.

Northwestern University

Our next stop was Northwestern University where Bugaboo was going to be participating in an experiment for the child development department.  Because of her experiment, we were able to get a parking spot in front of the psychology building.  Otherwise, parking in the area appears restricted to passholders, but there are some pay-on-site options in the parking garages.

It was a beautiful day, and we enjoyed strolling around the shady campus.  I love universities in general – the freedom of being a college student, the world is wide open to you, and in each building fascinating classes are being taught.  Northwestern is almost as beautiful as my K-State.  In fact, there were a lot of similarities with the limestone buildings spaced close together.  We could have explored for hours, but I will have to return another time – perhaps when Bugaboo comes to college!

If You Go

Evanston is a beautiful college town right on the lake.  There are dozens of opportunities for walks around quaint neighborhoods or parks.  Parking will always be a little difficult because Evanston is both close to Chicago and a university town.  During the summer, the university crowds should die down a bit.  Look into taking public transportation if you are coming from or going to the city.

We really had an enjoyable day in Evanston.  It’s those type of days that make these the good old days!


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