A wise, ancient-Greek physician Hippocrates once said: “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”
It’s no secret that Greeks adore eating and express love through food and feeding others- often to the point of overindulgence. As I have explained to non-Greek friends: “the more you are fed, the more you are loved– you really have no choice but to finish that food lest you offend someone or reject their love.” Greeks know that food is best savored, and life is best celebrated, surrounded by family and friends and leisurely lingering over a lovingly-prepared meal.
With one of the largest Greek populations in the world, Chicago has a vibrant Greek diaspora and an abundance of Greek dining options. A question I regularly field is: “What is the best Greek restaurant in Chicago?” Below I share my favorite Chicago Greek spots. [Spoiler alert: none of them are located in Greektown.]
Kαλή όρεξη (ka-LEE OR-ex-ee): Bon appétit!
CHICAGO GREEK FAVORITES
Mythos Greek Taverna
Mythos Greek Taverna is located on the Northside of Chicago, far-removed from the usual Greektown haunts, both in distance and in quality. Run by two Greek sisters- Vicki and Toni- Mythos serves the most authentic, mouth-watering Greek cooking in the city. Vicki is masterful in the kitchen and crafts flavorful, traditional Greek dishes. A large casserole dish of Greek pastitsio is perfection, and the chicken riganati (oregano chicken) is lemony lusciousness, while the soutzoukakia (angus meatballs) are expertly-seasoned and savory. Mythos also offers several top-notch Greek salads, spreads and appetizers as well as fresh fish. BYOB sweetens the deal.
Taxim, the Turkish word for division or partition, is a hip restaurant that offers a modern twist on traditional Greek cuisine. The interior oozes with Byzantium-style glamour reminiscent of an Orthodox church. However, the contemporary cuisine and an exquisite, Greek-focused wine list is anything but Orthodox. All of those stereotypes and biases against mass-produced Greek fare? Taxim obliterates them. Heavenly vegetable dishes are truly the showstoppers in this herbivore’s paradise. Mezédes for sharing abound while carnivores can feast on entrees of duck gyro, pork souvlakia (kabobs) and tender lamb. Loukoumades, gooey with wildflower honey, serve as a perfect conclusion to a meal at this Wicker Park gem.
Avli is a North Shore Greek staple located in the upscale suburb of Winnetka. Avli’s ambiance is warm and inviting. Don’t miss the charming courtyard (hence the name Avli- “αυλή”) perfect for whiling away a summer afternoon over delectable mezes accompanied by a glass of wine from a remarkable list or perhaps an ouzo-cocktail. Avli also offers classic Greek main dishes alongside tasty seafood options with stand-out grilled octopus. Avli is worth the drive from the city and is a destination for Grecophile, oenophile foodies.
Athenian Room is a casual, affordable Greek mainstay located in Lincoln Park that specializes in chicken, gyros, and souvlaki sandwiches. The Athenian Room is old-school. It has been around for over 40 years but recently enjoyed a surge in popularity after a gushing endorsement from Greek-American actress and comedian Tina Fey. Don’t be fooled by the basic menu. The succulent Kalamata Chicken is skillfully roasted, marinated in lemon and olive oil and served atop a bed of Greek fries that somehow maintain their lemony, oregano-ey, crispy goodness. The Alexandros skirt steak is another well-seasoned crowd-pleaser. No alcohol is served, but never fear, lushes: Glascott’s Saloon adjoins Athenian Room so you can grab a drink and bring it back into the restaurant.