I’m a little behind on reviews these days, so I apologize, but that doesn’t meant we haven’t hit up a few restaurants in Chicago over the last month or so. Back in early September we ventured down to Avli in Chicago’s River North neighborhood to grab dinner with some friends.
It was a nice night so we decided to sit on the “patio” to take advantage of the weather that we all know is going to be turning into garbage soon enough. The patio itself is pretty nice. It’s kind of partially in the building, partially on the sidewalk and was bustling with people enjoying their night out… unfortunately, even though we said we’d like to sit on the patio, we were escorted around the corner to an area of the street that had been blocked off to cars so they could setup more tables for dining…
Now I totally understand the need for these tables in COVID times, and because Avli River North doesn’t have much of an indoor dining space, so to social distance their tables might be a bit more difficult, but the street seating was a little annoying.
For one, the streets all slope towards the sidewalks, so your table and chairs are both kind of on a slope that way… Thankfully, I keep my wallet in my back pocket, so that kind of leveled me out a little when I sat on the chair, but even so, it was a little annoying to be seated at an angle like that. But again, I understand why it needs to be done, and I appreciate the fact that there were extra tables for us to sit at outside. It won’t sway my review of the restaurant itself one way or the other.
Other than the gripe about the slanted street, everything else about the restaurant was great. The service was fine – not over-the-top amazing, but it wasn’t at all bad – the bathrooms were nice, and the food was pretty good…
Avli Chicago Food
Avli is a Greek inspired restaurant, so most of the food you’ll find on the menu is traditional Greek food mixed with contemporary elegance (I stole that from their website). I’m not a huge fan of Greek food in general, but I was willing to try whatever the rest of the table ordered… so here we go.
We started our meal with some spreads. If you’re unfamiliar with spreads, it’s exactly what it sounds like, spreadable food that, in this case, you add to a pita. The pita was delicious, I love a good pita, but I’m not a huge fan of spreads in general. Hummus doesn’t do anything for me and Tzatziki isn’t really my favorite, but it was on this night. I’ve only tried Tzatziki a couple times and decided I didn’t like it, but for some reason I dug into it this night and it was delicious. I don’t know if it was prepared differently here, but for some reason the yogurt with the refreshing taste of the cucumber just hit the spot that night. Highly recommend it if you like Tzatziki, and if you don’t… maybe give this one a try. I could just be crazy and it tastes like all other Tzatziki, but I was all in on it that night.
Since we got the sampler, we also had 2 other spreads on the plate. I did not try either one of them and I honestly can’t remember what they were… One might have been the hummus with tahini and cumin, but I really have no idea…
Meatballs, Saganaki, Prawns and More
Since the restaurant mainly deals in small plates, we went with a bunch more things for our next course.
The Soutzoukakia, which is ground beef & lamb, cumin, tomato sauce, and feta mousse, was basically just meatballs shaped like small turds, that didn’t taste like turds. These were actually really good and one of my favorite dishes of the night. The tomato sauce that they were sitting in was good and the meatballs had a lot of flavor with a little bit of spice to them. We ordered this as one of my “safe” dishes, in case I didn’t want to try anything else, and it was totally safe.
The Kataifi Prawns were a suggestion from an Instagram follower and I thought they were delicious… and I do not like most seafood. It was a little odd though because the rest of the table thought they were just alright, nothing special. The prawns consisted of wild caught shrimp wrapped in shredded filo with a spicy mayo. Now of course if it’s not Miracle Whip I’m not eating it, so I tried to refrain from the spicy mayo, but overall this was a very good dish in my eyes.
The Saganaki didn’t really do anything for me, and I was a bit disappointed they did not light it on fire at the table… Even the dive bar we used to go to when we turned 21 would bring out the saganaki and light it on fire at the table, so I was surprised when these guys did not… unless that’s really a thing only tacky places do? I’m not really up on my Greek customs when it comes to saganaki and fire.
I’m not a huge fan of saganaki in general, which is crazy because I love cheese, but also not so crazy because I only like boring cheeses… but everyone else at the table enjoyed it.
The last thing we got in this round is something I did not try and I cannot remember what it was. It may have been the Tomato Keftedes, which is tomato fritter, feta, and herbed-yogurt, but it also could have just been baked beans, I really have no idea. You can use the picture above to try and figure it out, but I’m at a loss…
Filet and Potatoes
Since I was still a little hungry after the small plates, we also ordered the filet medallions, which I don’t really see on the menu when looking online right now, but it was 4 smaller sized filet’s with French fries. These filets were pretty good although I believe we asked for them cooked medium and a couple of them were rare…
I don’t mind if it comes out medium rare, but I’m not really keen on rare. Thankfully it was only some of them and not all of them, so I got to enjoy enough of it, and they were pretty damn good. I’ll definitely recommend the filet for sure.
I did not try the Greek potatoes, but again, they went over pretty well at the table.
For dessert the server recommended the Portokalopita which is orange pie with pistachio and an orange cream citrus syrup…. nobody was super impressed by the dessert. I think we probably would have been better off going with either of the 2 baklava desserts instead.
Overall Avli was pretty good. Not my favorite of the restaurants we’ve gone to lately, but not my least favorite. I probably wouldn’t put it at the top of my list to revisit, but if you like Greek food and are looking for something downtown (and in other locations around the city), this would be a great place to check out.