The Unicorn has been a hangout for both Northwestern students and Evanston residents since it first opened in 1991—well ahead of the coffeehouse craze. For nearly 25 years, it’s been a relaxing place to read, write, talk and enjoy a great cup of coffee or tea.
“We’re a true coffeehouse, in the best sense and tradition of the word,” said Jessica Donnelly, current owner of the Unicorn.
The store was opened by Wendell Thomas, along with his son’s Peter and Mike, taking over a space that used to be a tanning salon.
“I think we’re getting back to the tradition that Wendell started,” Donnelly said. “We’ve got live music and poetry readings. We’re a place for the community to gather.”
The Unicorn features Colectivo Coffee, which is roasted by hand on “two very-old-but-very-awesome, manually operated Probat roasters,” in Milwaukee. Medium, dark or decaf drip coffee is always available hot and fresh, in addition to a wide variety of coffee drinks, from espressos to cappuccinos. You can also choose from loose-leaf teas, hot chocolate and cider, milk shakes and juices.
For breakfast, bagels, scones, muffins, croissants and food are offered, and Panini sandwiches are available for lunch, in addition to their famous vegan soup.
But perhaps best of all, you can get them in front of the great big windows overlooking Sherman Street in the heart of downtown.
“Evanston has grown a ton,” Donnelly said. “We’ve got great bookstores, a wonderful library, incredible restaurants. There is such a variety of ethnicities and people who come in here. You’re always meeting someone interesting.”
While it’s proximity to Northwestern draws in quite a few students, Donnelly said she gets a diverse clientele.
“We get the very best mix of artists and students, along with those (from Evanston) looking for a place to relax,” she said. “We’re a comfortable place to get a drink when you’re downtown. We got free WiFi—no password needed—so lots of people come in with their computers to get some work done during the day.
“We love being part of downtown Evanston,” Donnelly said.