Evanston is a diverse town with a lot of great ethnic food, but until very recently, Mongolian-Russian cuisine has not been on the menu. Owner Ulzii Hughbanks, who moved from Mongolia to America in 2005, was determined to change that, and we’re oh-so happy that she decided to open The Funky Monk, a small and casual counter-service restaurant across from the Evanston Public Library in the heart of downtown. Mongolian food … who knew? Believe me, you don’t realize what you’ve been missing. This is perfect comfort fare for the colder months: steaming bowls of lamb broth with toothsome homemade noodles; deeply flavorful Russian borscht, served hot and available with or without beef; and traditional Mongolian milk tea broth loaded with perfect, tender lamb dumplings submerged below the surface. Don’t miss the Samsy, an oven-baked hand pie with impossibly flaky crust surrounding either hand chopped and seasoned beef or diced winter squash and onions (delicious with either the sweet and sour plum sauce or the sriracha mayo). Vegetarians will also love the pirojki, Russian buns filled with mashed potatoes that resemble large empanadas. The prices are quite reasonable and the portions large; it’s already a hit with the Northwestern students. And about that “funky monk” … Hughbanks says the restaurant is named for a famous Mongolian artist, a monk who was known to be quirky. She’s still searching for one of his works to put up in the restaurant, but the name stuck. This place is just the right amount of funky, and in a very good way.
The Funky Monk
618 1/2 Church St.