With its walkable streets, rumbling "L" train, sprawling university campus and diverse population, Evanston, Ill., is a suburb that has long appealed to Chicagoans who vowed they'd never move to the suburbs.
Amy Morton, who is as close to restaurant royalty as you can get (she's the daughter of the steakhouse mogul Arnie Morton), counts herself among that tribe. So it should be no surprise that last November Ms. Morton opened Found Kitchen and Social House, a thoughtfully conceived storefront featuring succulent local fare in a decidedly urban, brick-and-candlelight environment that fuels perhaps the brightest dinner party vibe between Chicago and Milwaukee.
"It's been 20 years since my last restaurant, and this space is really a full expression of my personal evolution," said Ms. Morton, 50.
Stylishly reupholstered "found" furniture and lots of globes set a worldly, living room tone.
"I couldn't justify buying everything new," she said, pouring tea from a vintage silver pot. Ms. Morton has also sprinkled arch conversation starters in strategic spots, like a quote from Gertrude Stein scrawled above the bar: "If you can't say anything nice about anyone else, come sit next to me."
That sort of haute-but-homey touch pops up everywhere, from a family-friendly caption on the menu ("kids or caviar, just ask!") to the quirky selection of vintage tomes in a library area in the back of the dining room (Plato, Tarzan). There is plenty to look at while you wait for a table; Found does not take reservations.
The menu, which Ms. Morton created with her chef, Nicole Pederson, is focused on seasonal small plates. Our wintertime selection included tender braised brussels sprouts and bright-tasting kale with cranberries, and grilled baby octopus with picholine olives and sunchokes that melded sea and earth. Dessert selections rotate; here's a vote for a return of the butterscotch bourbon pecan gelato sundae with sour cherry and pecan sandies.
Our top dish, chicken liver mousse with bacon marmalade and toast, meshes both women's Francophile bent with the chef's affinity for whole-animal cooking.
The new spring menu includes a shareable plate of pickled beef hearts with deviled eggs, beets and baby greens -- perfect for alfresco dining in a new sidewalk area.
Found Kitchen and Social House, 1631 Chicago Avenue, Evanston, Ill.; (847) 868-8945; foundkitchen.com. An average dinner for two, without wine or tip, is about $60.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.