By Sophia Bross
Logan Square’s new restaurant Andros Taverna brings Greek dining in Chicago into the 21st century. When many of us think of Greek food in Chicago we think of the restaurants in “Greektown” on Halsted street in the West Loop serving the Greek comfort food of 50 years ago. At Andros, Chef Doug Psaltis and his wife, pastry chef Hsing Chen, have reinterpreted and modernized many of the classic Greek dishes. Psaltis is a New Yorker of Greek heritage who made a name for himself with the RPM restaurants of Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises. He’s the “P” in RPM. Chen is a classically trained French pastry chef formerly at the world-renowned French Laundry and more recently at the Peninsula. The pair partnered with another husband-and-wife duo, Ryan and Anna O’Donnell, successful restauranteurs (Gemini, Old Pueblo Cantina, Sophia Steak) to form Andros Restaurant group with Andros Taverna being the first restaurant.
Andros embraces “Philotimo,” a Greek word without definition that embodies the goodness and generosity considered to be the highest of all Greek virtues for family, social living, and community. It is a way of life that all Greeks strive for. Psaltis and his partners chose Logan Square because it has a strong sense of community and is a mix of entrepreneurs, artists, young professionals, and families. Andros is in a new building next to a coming soon neighborhood green space and near the Farmers Market. It is airy and full of greenery. Smaller tables are along the edges of the main dining room with bigger tables in the middle. If you are dining at a table for two this layout provides a more intimate and private feel although the restaurant itself is lively with a moderate noise level.
We started our dinner with the mezze collection which included three spreads, crudités, cheese, olives, and their signature pitas. The pitas are their signature item and the best I’ve ever tasted. They are prepared daily from a dough of milled flours from the Midwest, olive oil, filtered water, and natural yeast and allowed to slowly rise to perfection. They are stretched to order and cooked in a wood-burning oven until super light and tender. The spreads include the exceptional spicy whipped feta, traditional tzatziki, and taramasalata. The taramasalata was not that unnatural hot pink color often seen in Greek restaurants but in its natural state made fresh with high-quality fish roe.
The spanakopita is in a beautiful ruffled filo dough pie filled with spinach. Chef Psaltis goes to great pains to source only the best ingredients as is demonstrated in this dish by the purity of the taste of the olive oil in the spinach. Clearly, Chen’s pastry expertise is showcased in the filo crust because it is as visually beautiful as it is delicious. Being of Greek heritage myself, my mother made spanakopita often from scratch with no recipes or measuring cups. This is the only spanakopita I have ever liked more than my mother’s and thankfully she won’t be reading this article.
We moved on to “Georgie’s gyros” which is not some unknown meat peeled off of a frozen cone of leftover cuts often seen in fast food establishments. Psaltis uses only select cuts of premium Midwest pork and marinates them overnight before serving in their signature pitas with a few fries of course. Other exceptional entrees include whole sea bass, tender grilled octopus, and lemon garlic chicken. All proteins are prepared in the wood-burning oven or slow-roasted over charcoal embers.
As for dessert and Chen’s pastries, she is incorporating something Greek into nearly every item. The standout dessert is the vanilla Soufra which is a ruffled phyllo pie filled with vanilla custard with cinnamon and honey. For a lighter dessert, the Baklava Froyo is a Greek-style frozen yogurt topped with baklava crumbles, pistachio sauce, and honey. A lot lighter than baklava but still paying homage to its traditional flavors. The dark chocolate havla mousse is pure heaven and perfect for those dessert lovers who only want chocolate. Of course, as a nod to grandma, the menu includes Yiayia’s Kourabiedes, the traditional Greek almond butter cookies buried in powdered sugar. If you don’t have much room left, a slice of ouzo-infused watermelon is a refreshing and great way to end your meal.
Driven by seasonality and rooted in tradition, Andros Taverna reflects a modern expression of Greek soul food in a beautiful contemporary environment. Andros is open for dinner Tuesday through Sunday with brunch and lunch on the weekends. Reservations are highly recommended and can be made on Resy.