Bucatini with pecorino and clams Photo: Anna Knott

Brian Huston’s American restaurant is the kind of down-to-earth Chicago neighborhood café that has communal seating and a rum cocktail named for WGN weatherman Tom Skilling. Huston (Evanston Township High School class of 1989) is a protégé of Paul Kahan and has a knack for pushing wham-pow flavors out of Boltwood’s open kitchen, whether in the form of mussels with Sardinian fregola pasta and grilled bread or decadent crispy garlic schmaltz potatoes.

The urbane but approachable décor is somehow as aptly suited to families stuffing their kids with burgers as it is to hip young bargoers downing housemade pickles, pretzels, and pizzas. Much of the fun takes place at long tables overflowing with bacchanalian energy. Ever dependable, Boltwood has established itself as the anchor of downtown Evanston.