BY SOPHIE BROSS
As I walked out the door after two of the coldest days in Chicago history, I found myself craving the comfort food of my childhood summers in Greece. Although far away from its beautiful beaches and mountains, Mediterranean food and hospitality has come to Lincoln Park at Avli.
Avli Taverna (1335 W. Wrightwood) is a followup to the 10-year-old Avli restaurant in Winnetka, with the cuisine notched up to a higher level of sophistication. It is a partnership between Louie Alexakis (the chef and owner in Winnetka); William Glastris, Jr.; and sportscaster Lou Canellis. It’s Greek food reinvented—not the traditional cuisine of Greektown but a revisiting of the classics done with culinary creativity.
The menu has both small plates and mains, so you can choose to share many dishes with your table, as they do in Greece over late-night dinners, or order individually if you prefer. There were several standout items in the small plates. The spicy feta dip with warm pita was exceptional and packed a real kick. The saganaki is topped with peppered figs and drizzled with honey, adding a new twist to an old Greek favorite. The grilled octopus was served over a tasty fava spread.
For those of you craving meat during this cold Chicago winter, the pork and chicken shish kabobs were seasoned and marinated with the perfect warming combination of herbs and spices. The grass-fed lamb and the lamb gyro sandwich is better than any lamb I’ve had in Greektown.
The dessert list has only three items and the caramel baklava ice cream dessert is the standout here, with housemade ice cream topped with shredded filo.
Avli also has a curated list of quality Greek wines that would definitely appeal to a more refined palate than the typical ones found in Greektown. There are many wines you will never have heard of and great fun for wine lovers seeking to try something new from boutique wineries that are not widely available.
The space is small and only seats about 50 people, so reservations are recommended. The noise level is moderate—if you prefer a quieter dining experience, you should request to sit in the back room.
Avli is a great addition to Lincoln Park dining with a more polished approach to Greek cuisine. This intimate restaurant is sure to become a local favorite. Opa!
Photo credit: Kailey Lindman