The Greektown neighborhood, just west of the Loop, has the highest density of (no shock here) Greek restaurants: Our favorites are Santorini for dinner and 9 Muses for late-night eats. But great Greek food can be found throughout the city, like the student-friendly Cross Rhodes in Evanston—and many destinations in between. Here are our favorites.
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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 pork-lamb sausage), “toasts” (essentially panini) and huge gyro platters. If you can stop yourself from talking by shoveling in the food, nobody will know you don’t belong.
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 try the creamy taramosalata on warm rounds of pita, and say: “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 kebobs, the vinegary Greek fries or the flaky spanakopita—that the spell is cast.
To say that you get more than you pay for at this dinerish Greek joint is an obscene understatement. It’s not just that the portions are huge (the $11 gyros platter is piled with 14 ounces of meat)—it’s that the food is well-spiced and fresh. In other words, it’s a refreshing change from most Greek spots. And refreshing for vegetarians, too, with its meat-free versions of rich mousaka and pastitsio.
If Greektown makes you feel as if you’re drowning in a sea of bad food and obnoxious tourists, here’s your life jacket. The Kontos family serves food that is impeccably fresh, importing organic olive oil and oregano from the family farm in Sparta. Look for starters like sprightly spanakotiropita to hit your palate with fresh herb flavor. Like most of the seafood, the whole red snapper needs nothing more than a squeeze of lemon to show off its delicate flesh and subtle flavor. You may jump a little every time a ball of flaming saganaki cheese erupts at nearly every table, but if your nerves can handle it, your taste buds will thank you.
The cozy, cushy, Byzantine-style dining room and simple (and often simply delicious) seasonal Mediterranean food at this Wicker Park’s Greek den are all the influence of chef-owner David Schneider. Minimal ingredients are needed for a poof of housemade phyllo filled with ramps and flanked by feta or a bowl of fresh fava beans tossed with preserved lamb, but solid execution and superb seasoning yields maximum flavors. Nice prices and a share-everything platform mean more dough for sampling through the superb Greek wine list.