There are many reasons to live in Evanston, but unless you’re in a Northwestern fraternity, nightlife is probably not among them. The Cellar isn’t going to change that, but it certainly fills a much-needed niche: Serve good food and beer with some ambience, stay open past 10, and don’t charge too much for it.
The Cellar is owned by the Stained Glass Wine Bar, and the new kid shares much with its ten-year-old sibling. The beautiful ceiling is outfitted with rustic wooden rafters (even if the overall aesthetic of the place is a bit staid), and—perhaps most important—the two share a kitchen. But whereas entrées at the Stained Glass run about $25, the food menu at the Cellar tops out at $11. (The cocktails run $11 as well, which was not a worthwhile investment for a flat, weak gin-cucumber drink.)
In what is perhaps a liberal-arts-school prof’s worst nightmare, the menu is divided into America, Europe and “The Other World.” A bowl of sake-steamed mussels served with miso-rubbed bread comes from the land of the “Other,” as do cutely presented (but too cold and bland) fish tacos; the tramezzini, a slightly greasy—but satisfyingly rich—sandwich of meats and cheeses (prosciutto, salami, mozzarella, provolone) and the butternut-squash ravioli (oddly paired with roasted beets) represent Europe. It’s all straightforward enough, but, like its surroundings, could use a bit more punch.