When we heard that the folks behind one of our favorite neighborhood restaurants, Ten Mile House, were opening another restaurant in the area aimed at a more casual, family-oriented, feel, we knew we had to try it. Little did we know though, that we’d be leaving the Evanston Central street area before the new restaurant would open up in Winnetka, so we weren’t sure we’d get a chance to try the new spot.
Thankfully, last Friday we found an opportunity to make it up to Winnetka to give Fred’s Garage a try. Unfortunately for us, it wasn’t warm enough to sit outside because this place has a killer outdoor patio.
All that being said, we went into our dinner with high expectations having eaten at Ten Mile House more than a dozen times since it opened in Evanston a few years back. But going in with high expectations isn’t always a good thing, as you’re easily let down, as we kind of were with Fred’s Garage.
The Restaurant Space
The restaurant itself is awesome. As I mentioned above, they have a huge outdoor patio space that looks like it would be incredible in the warmer weather. Unfortunately for us we went about a week too early as it was like 50-degrees and raining when we went, and now it’s 80 and sunny. Oh well.
The patio is definitely a huge selling point for the restaurant as it’s hard to find really good outdoor spaces in the suburbs. I’m not even sure what other restaurants in Winnetka might have an outdoor space, but I’m hard pressed to believe that it outshines the one at Fred’s Garage.
Patio aside, the interior space is really nice as well. As you walk in to the restaurant the bar area is directly in front of you. We had the kids with us, so we didn’t linger in the bar too long, but I was impressed with the aesthetics.
Once inside, the main restaurant opens up to your left with a fair amount of seating, but I wouldn’t say it’s a huge restaurant. And that’s probably why a lot of the yelp reviews complained about long waits for tables. Thankfully when you have young kids who can’t sit still, you go to dinner at 5:30pm, so there’s never usually a wait, plus we made a quick reservation when we knew we were going to be heading up that way.
We were seating along a half wall that backed up to the bar. It was a booth on one side and chairs on the other, which was perfect for a car seat and a kid. The walls are adorned with various things related to an automotive garage, since the restaurant used to be an old gas station/garage that was converted into a restaurant. Hence the name “Fred’s Garage”.
The only thing I will say is that since the ceilings are really high and it was repurposed as a restaurant, it is a bit loud inside. It’s nothing that was overly annoying or disruptive, but it is noticeable. However, that’s always a good thing when you have small children as it’s harder for them to annoy other patrons if they start getting fussy. And there were a lot of kids and families in there at the time we were eating dinner, so you can definitely bring your children.
The Food Review
The menu for Fred’s Garage is a lot different than the menu at their other restaurant, Ten Mile House. Ten Mile House is more of a smoked meats and wood fired pizza restaurant, but with an upscale twist on things. While Fred’s is more of a sandwich/burger with a few random entrees, like fish, chicken and ribs.
I did not have the ribs, although I would assume they are the same, or similar, to Ten Mile House’s, which I love. Maybe I should have gotten them… but maybe not, since after just looking, the ribs are $1 more at Fred’s Garage than they are at Ten Mile House… odd. The grilled cheese (on the normal menu) is also $2 more at Fred’s than at Ten Mile House… I would argue that maybe they think that Winnetka is more upscale so they can charge more, but the area of Evanston that Ten Mile House is in isn’t too shabby itself, so these price differences are strange to me.
And that leads into why we were a bit disappointed with Fred’s Garage when we love Ten Mile House.
First let’s start with our drinks. At this point I’m not even sure why I order alcoholic beverages when we go out. I’m not drinking to get drunk or buzzed, since the kids are usually with us, and I’m driving, so why am I wasting $9 on a Tito’s and Soda with dinner… Yup, $9 for a mixed drink in the suburbs. I’ll give you $7, but $9 for a simple cocktail seems a bit harsh to me… especially since it was Tito’s and not something top shelf. Either way though, it definitely made me rethink why I bother getting alcohol when we go to dinner as a family…
Alcohol prices aside, our next surprise came when our daughter wanted a chocolate milk, which they do not have. I’m sorry, maybe it’s just me being an annoying parent, but I feel like if you offer a kids menu you should offer chocolate milk. Clearly kids love chocolate milk and it’s a treat for our kid when we take her out to dinner. And yeah, maybe I’m being picky, but the family next to us had equally disappointed children when they found out they couldn’t order chocolate milk either. Milk, orange juice and cranberry juice just seem like lazy options for kids drinks to me. Milk is always on hand at any restaurant, and the orange juice and cranberry juice are their bar mixers…
So after diffusing the chocolate milk situation by promising Homer’s Ice Cream after dinner, we proceeded to order our main meals.
I went with the Griddle Burger [pictured above] sans all of the fancy stuff they wanted to put on it. And by fancy I really just mean the Remoulade, which I honestly don’t even know what that is… nor do I really care. It also comes with lettuce, tomato, onion, and pickles, but I never get that stuff on my burger anyways. So as usual it was just meat and cheese for me.
I thought the burger was just ok. A lot of restaurants these days are trying to emulate the success of places like Au Cheval by doing a double griddle burger, but not many come close, and this one did not come close. The meat itself just didn’t have the same deliciousness as other griddle burgers that I’ve had. It wasn’t bad by any means, I ate the whole thing, but it just felt like the meat was missing something. It was also a little too well done on the outside edges for me. And that’s kind of weird, cause most griddle burgers are well done, but this just had a char-type flavor to it that I wasn’t expecting.
And while the burger was fine, and the fries were ok (I’m pretty sure they are frozen, they look like McDonalds fries), I’m not sure the burger + fries is worth $15…. maybe $13… oh wait, that’s how much the Ten Mile House burger costs… strange…
My wife went with the special for the night, the Fish n’ Chips. I believe it was battered and fried cod with a side of McDonald’s fries… She enjoyed the fish, but when I think of Fish n’ Chips I usually think of like steak fries, not really thin fries that look like they came from a fast food restaurant.
The good thing about the fries though, is they give you a shit load of them… We took home 1 piece of cod, half of our daughter’s grilled cheese (which we’ll talk about in a second), and about 1,000 french fries, which we ate with lunch the next day.
Ok, so our entrees were ok, albeit a little pricy for my taste, but now lets talk about the kids menu.
Looking at the website now to jog my memory, I think the prices in the actual restaurant may have been adjusted slightly as I don’t remember our daughter’s grilled cheese and fries costing $9, I believe it was $8, but I could be wrong. Either way though, I felt the kids menu prices were a little ridiculous.
I get that the kids menu items come with fries and a drink, but the drink options are milk, fountain soda, OJ and cranberry juice… none of which cost the restaurant very much money, especially for a kids size. And while I can’t speak to the other options on the kids menu, the grilled cheese was literally just 1 (maybe 2) slices of American cheese between 2 pieces of white bread with a shit ton of fries. No kid needs that many fries and I don’t want to pay for that many fries.
Oh, but the kids menu items come with a salad instead if I want… but what kid wants to eat a salad with their grilled cheese? Dumb.
This really was the part of our experience that annoyed me the most. There is another family restaurant in Evanston, on Central Street, called Bluestone that offers the same type of kids menu and their grilled cheese, fries and a drink is $4…… Four Dollars… and I promise you it’s just as good as what our daughter had at Fred’s Garage.
I’m sorry, but a simple grilled cheese like this should not cost $8-9.
Aside from the pricing, which I think could be a couple dollars less across the board, the space is really cool and the food wasn’t bad. I don’t know that we’d make another trek out to Winnetka to eat here, but if you’re in the area I’d say give it a shot and see what it’s all about. Especially if you’re there on a nice day, that patio looks incredible.