Thanks to Chicago’s large Greek community, the city has a lot of Greek food. Most of the best Greek restaurants are family run and have been around for decades. They’re centered along the gentrified Greek town neighborhood, on Halsted Street, just west of downtown (and near the United Center). There, a few city blocks are lined with fancy Greek restaurants, fast-food gyros joints, and family-run Greek bakeries serving hard-to-pronounce but absolutely delicious homemade pastries.
Greek Islands separates itself from the pack of so many other Greek restaurants with a festive atmosphere, an authentic Greek culinary experience, and a professional waitstaff. Having traveled to [amazon_textlink asin=’1631213075′ text=’Greece’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’theyums-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’ae84d4b8-955c-11e7-944d-47303d2c0d83′] through the years, I was in search of a local authentic Greek restaurant to entertain family and friends. The Greek Islands is authentic as it gets. There are two locations in Illinois, one in Lombard and the other one I recently visited in Greek Town, Chicago.
Location: 200 S. Halsted Chicago, Illinois
Menu: Deciding what to order is as difficult as picking your favorite ancient [amazon_textlink asin=’1522715703′ text=’Greek God’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’theyums-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’d29c7c86-955c-11e7-8692-2b336e3b7fc1′]. The menu is massive and offers an extensive assortment of traditional Greek favorites and fresh seafood. The Greek Islands wine, cheeses, seafood, and olives are all directly imported and prepared in an open kitchen.
Start with Avgolemono soup and [amazon_textlink asin=’B0002DRH9M’ text=’saganaki’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’theyums-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’ecc25d27-955c-11e7-8c38-61a7916730e3′], also known as cheese on fire, and then dig in to some traditional dishes like [amazon_textlink asin=’B00H5CYPIY’ text=’dolmades’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’theyums-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’03e50fd4-955d-11e7-b0d2-734eee8c3c7b’] (grape leaves stuffed with meat and rice), moussaka (baked eggplant, ground meat and potato casserole topped with béchamel sauce which can also be prepared vegetarian) and kontosouvli (Pork on the split, served with onions and horseradish yogurt sauce), which are among my favorites. If seafood is more your style, fresh seabass, and the mahi-mahi shish kabobs are moist and prepared to perfection. The menu constantly changes with the chefs creating innovative food combinations at reasonable prices.
Thoughts: When dining In Greece, they don’t light the saganaki cheese on fire and yell “Opa!” like they do in American Greek restaurants, but just about everything else about the Greek Islands is incredibly authentic. From the time you arrive, you’ll immediately notice the tantalizing aromas from the kitchen and festive atmosphere. The restaurant’s casual ambiance features [amazon_textlink asin=’B0054LRIBY’ text=’Greek music’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’theyums-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’3acab6c0-955d-11e7-a576-f11362926ce0′] playing in the background, scenery murals, and quaint knickknacks adorning the blue and coral-hued interior. The décor is creative and makes it feel like you’re sitting al fresco in [amazon_textlink asin=’9602131373′ text=’Santorini’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’theyums-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’5f632647-955d-11e7-989a-013741c75fa8′]. Due to the sheer volume of customers the restaurant can serve at once, the restaurant can get noisy at times.
It’s a great place to relax and spend times with friends, and the staff treats you like family. I always feel like I’m dining in a private Greek home. In the Greek Town location there are even a few Greek columns, statues, and a National Hellenic Museum, so it’s a nice area to walk around after your meal. Greeks like to take time to enjoy their food and wine, so don’t rush your meal – enjoy the Greek music and decor, soak up the Mediterranean ambiance, savor the spectacular food, and slowly sip your Greek wine or shot glass full of ouzo.
Price range: Appetizers range from $4 -$11, and Entries range from $7-$25
Additional note: Greek Islands offers free valet parking. The restaurant is also wheelchair accessible.
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