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Athenian Room The theory goes like this: The first time you eat at this unassuming Greek spot, you may try the gyro salad—well-spiced slices of meat sitting atop simple greens—and you’ll think, Not bad. Next time, you’ll scan the affordable, limited menu, try the creamy taramasalata on warm rounds of pita and say to yourself, Pretty good. But according to the cultish customer base that swears by this place, it’s on your third visit—when you order the juicy chicken kebabs, the vinegary Greek fries or the flaky spanakopita—that the spell is cast and you really become devoted. 807 W Webster Ave (773-348-5155). El: Brown, Purple (rush hrs), Red to Fullerton. Bus: 8, 11, 22, 74. Lunch, dinner. Average main course: $8.
Greek Corner You could walk right by this spot and think it’s nothing more than a greasy spoon. You’d almost be right. But once you open up a bottle of your own wine and check out the modest prices, you’ll become much more forgiving. Start with the loukaniko, housemade sausage sautéed with onions and peppers (an app portion is available by request), and the huge Mediterranean salad with tasty dolmades, feta, peperoncinis and more. Also tasty are the flaky, peppery spanakopita and the Spartan pizza, which swaps spicy hummus for tomato sauce and is topped with grilled chicken, spinach, feta and olives. The roasted chicken is flavorful but often dry, so ask for extra basting sauce. 958 N Damen Ave (773-252-8010). El: Blue to Division. Bus: 50, 66, 70. Lunch, dinner (closed Sun). Average main course: $7.
Mythos Greek Taverna A casual but classy oasis of ocean-blue hues, the dining room is constantly manned by the smooth-talking, personality half of the Greek-American sister duo that owns the restaurant. The other sibling spends her nights in the kitchen, turning out cheesy fried zucchini patties, lightly charred octopus and a deliciously juicy sausage brightened with distinctive orange zest. Entrées can be a tad lackluster, but the shepherd’s pie–ish pastitsio is comforting on a cold evening. 2030 W Montrose Ave (773-334-2000). El: Brown to Montrose. Bus: 11, 50, 78. Dinner (Tues–Sun). Average main course: $16.
9 Muses Do the young Greeks who pack this trendy, clubby restaurant know something you don’t? Yes. And they probably want to keep this place to themselves. But we have to crash on nights when we want Greek munchies like the Florina peppers (two roasted red peppers stuffed with creamy feta), loukaniko (a traditional Greek sausage made with pork and lamb), “toasts” (essentially panini) and huge gyro platters. Our advice: Stop yourself from talking by shoveling in the food. If nobody can hear your distinctly non-Greek accent, nobody will know you don’t belong. 315 S Halsted St (312-902-9922). El: Blue to UIC/Halsted. Bus: 7, 8, 60, 126. Lunch, dinner. Average main course: $10.
Taxim The cozy, cushy, Byzantine-style dining room of Wicker Park’s new Greek den is all owner David Schneider, but he gets help from former Scylla chef Jan Rickerl on the simple (and often simply delicious) seasonal Mediterranean food. Minimal ingredients are needed for a pouf of housemade phyllo filled with leeks and flanked by goat feta or a whole loup de mar with crackly-crisp skin beside dandelion salad, but solid execution yields maximum flavors. Nice prices and a share-everything platform means more dough for sampling through the superb Greek wine list. 1558 N Milwaukee Ave (773-252-1558). El: Blue to Damen. Bus: 50, 56, 72. Lunch (daily), dinner (Wed–Mon). Average main course: $22.
Venus Greek-Cypriot Cuisine Just on the cusp of Greektown’s eating mecca lies this sprawling spot known for cuisine from the Mediterranean island of Cyprus. The owners have taken the traditional, rustic village food and added a luscious, upscale touch. Try the halloumi (a milder version of saganaki) and the incredibly tender six-hour slow-baked lamb, served tableside in foil. Everything is made to order, so enjoy the wait with a bottle from the Greek wine list. Your pastitsio tsoukas, long noodles layered with ground beef and covered in a crispy béchamel topping, will be worth it. 820 W Jackson Blvd (312-714-1001). El: Blue to UIC/Halsted. Bus: 8, 126. Lunch (Sun), dinner. Average main course: $17.