Love Letters: Evanston

I love to travel. That's where I go to eat, to read, to frolic and dream. I love you, Evanston, for letting me travel home to you daily.
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A devoted and proud Evanston, IL, resident, David Morton was raised in the restaurant industry. Son of legendary restaurateur Arnie Morton, he experienced first-hand the creation, design, and execution of some of the most iconic restaurant brands and events of the past 30 years, including Morton's Steakhouse and Hard Rock Café. In 2009, David Morton and Chef Michael Kornick launched DMK Restaurants, which now includes Fish Bar, Ada Street, two locations of County Barbeque, DMK Burger & Fish, Henry's Swing Club, and three locations of DMK Burger Bar. David and his wife, Jodi Morton, own 2to5 Design, a residential and commercial design firm that, among other projects, created the design for DMK Restaurants. David and Jodi love living in Evanston with their three children.

Dear Evanston,

If you were all mine and only mine, I would have named you 'Heavenston'. Maybe not for your looks, but for the way you make me feel.

Leaving the northeastern corner of the city behind, meandering byways of iconic Sheridan Road, I first meet your nicely patinated cemetery to the west, and majestic Lake Michigan to the east. I continue straight, and drive off the cliff. No, not off of a real cliff, we soar off of an emotional one. The moment that I find myself flying, I know I'm back home, back in your cradle, the idyllic enclave at the edge of nature and Chicago.

I love you Evanston because of the company you keep: artists, actors, professors, entrepreneurs, hippies, techies, and even a few suits. These are the people that I can call my neighbors. They're the kind of people you find all over Evanston. Imagine Venice, California meets Manchester, Vermont; or Wes Anderson married to Martha Stewart. Admittedly, it's kind of hard to picture.

I love your nature, Evanston. Every morning a sunrise crescendos over Lake Michigan like a private concert for me and my wife, Jodi. Just before the pitch blackness fades from the sky, we venture a few short steps out from our front door. By the time we're at the beach, the orchestra members have taken their seats, still fine-tuning their instruments. Eventually the lights dim, the conductor takes her place, and instruments are in their final pose, ready to be played. Witnessing it makes us feel small, but connected, alive and aligned.

I love your body, Evanston. Peppered with turn-of-the-century architecture, parks, boutiques, and one-off restaurants, you give me the feeling that I would imagine only Mick and the guys felt when they were recording Sticky Fingers. The feeling like what had come before you was great, yet there was still an opportunity to add one note to make a chord feel a little better. That's certainly how we felt when we embarked on restoring our old Tudor. A great house built like a fossilized T-Rex, all of the magnificent bones hovering in place with none of the essential internal organs: no running water, no modern electrical systems and, of course, no air conditioning. The beautifully paneled walls were painted green at some point, the old oak floors were carpeted or covered with synthetic plastic tiles, and all but one chimney had completely collapsed. "OK, we'll take it." We technically own it, but don't think of it that way. We believe that we're just borrowing something from you, adding notes to a beautiful melody and waiting to pass it on to your next lover.

I love to travel. That's where I go to eat, to read, to frolic and dream. I love you, Evanston, for letting me travel home to you daily.