Great Greek food not only in Greektown

August 22, 2008 12:23:35 PM PDT
The "Taste of Greece" kicks off Friday night in Chicago's Greektown. All weekend long, people will be eating gyros, lamb and saganaki. But our Hungry Hound says Halsted Street isn't the only place to get a taste of Greek culture.It's a long way from Halsted Street, but Papaspiro's Greek Taverna in Oak Park is trying to attract locals with its own spin on classic recipes.

"It was my father's dream to bring the healthy Greek diet all the way from Greece to a nice place, which is not as populated," said Spiro Papajuros, Papaspiros.

Of course, there's nothing new with a Greek salad, but consider some of their homey dishes, such as a slow-cooked lamb stewed with giant artichokes, or an assortment of stuffed, roasted peppers. Even the spanakopita - a stack of crisp phyllo, sauteed spinach and cheese - is hearty and yet, familiar.

"We do use traditional dishes of the spanakopita, moussaka and the pasticchio and the dolmades, but the way he marinates and he makes them, they're a little bit different than the ones in other restaurants," said Papajuros.

Another somewhat different approach to Greek food is in Ravenswood, at the neighborhood-friendly Mythos. Run by Toni DiMeola and her sister, their philosophy is "cooked to order."

"I think in many restaurants, especially in Greektown, they pre-cook halfway and then they finish it upon the order being called it. That's something we just don't do," said Toni DiMeola.

A great starter is the kolokythokeftedes - traditional pancakes made from zucchini. Even the saganaki is unique: flamed in the kitchen, they use a different cheese than you'd find on Halsted. Lamb chops are like lollipops, and the Greek salad could easily feed two - the imported feta they use has just enough salinity to it. The dish that really sets Mythos apart is their pastichio - a casserole of sorts - layers of pasta and ground beef are buried beneath a cap of bechamel sauce, which is baked until golden.

"Ninety eight percent of our customers will say 'my gosh! I never knew Greek food was this good!' because Greek food over the years...it has great historical value on Halsted Street, but it has lost its originality somewhere down the line, which we're trying to bring back," said DiMeola.

Now there's nothing wrong with the Taste of Greece. Certainly all the businesses along Halsted will be busy this weekend, but isn't it good to know that there are a couple of great places off the beaten path, doing their own spin on classic Greek recipes?

And don't forget about the Athenian Room in Lincoln Park, for their famous Greek chicken.

Papaspiro's
733 Lake St., Oak Park
708-358-1700
www.papaspiros.com

Mythos
2030 W. Montrose Ave.
773-334-2000

Athenian Room
807 W. Webster Ave.
773-348-5155


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