Location -301 S. Halsted
In one word – Brunch
Food – Despite all the buzz I’d heard about this Greektown brunch spot, Meli—which is Greek for honey—wasn’t as sweet as I was expecting. The prices are good, the portions are ginormous, and the food is solid, but not spectacular. If you’re looking for something “foodie” or off the beaten path, go elsewhere for your lobster and potato gratin; Meli sticks pretty closely to your typical diner fare. However, with a huge selection of different omelets, frittatas, skillets, scrambles, pancakes, French toasts, crepes, wraps, paninis, sandwiches, salads, and more, there’s something for everyone on Meli’s menu. I chose the Vegetable Frittata with egg whites ($9.25), my Trusty Sidekick ordered French Toast ($7.95), fruit ($3.00), and coffee ($2.50), and our friend ordered Scrambled Eggs and Red Potatoes ($6.65) as well as the Banana Maple Crunch smoothie ($5.25). Our food came out quickly after we ordered and there was a lot of food on each plate. My frittata was huge, and while there was no “wow” flavor factor it offered a good texture schmorgusboard—the egg whites were pretty fluffy, the pieces of asparagus were slightly soft, the broccoli florets were crunchy, the slices of avocado were creamy, and on top of the entire frittata were two deli-sandwich slices of provolone: melty goodness. Unfortunately, the texture gods were not in my Trusty Sidekick’s corner; he didn’t care for his French Toast which was too soggy. Our friend enjoyed her Scrambled Eggs and roasted Red Potatoes, but the highlight of the meal was her Banana Maple Crunch smoothie, which I was initially against, thinking that Bananas and Maple Syrup would not taste good together. I was very wrong about this—the smoothie was thick and refreshing and had a great, toasty Banana flavor that wasn’t overly sweet or syrupy.
Drink – Lavazza coffee is available, along with freshly-squeezed juice and smoothies. Try the Banana Maple Smoothie, which tastes like a drinkable version of homemade banana bread. It blends together bananas, pecans, frozen non-fat yogurt, maple syrup, and whipped cream, but feel free to ask for yours without the whipped cream—it’s thick and rich enough without it.
Service – The hostess was fairly rude, and our waitress was still learning the ropes, but once we were seated and placed our order, our food was brought out quickly.
Scene – The restaurant is on the small side, so expect a crowded room with lots of tables crammed close to one another. You’ll see lots of couples, groups of friends, and families. Our biggest complaint was the music—it was too loud, and wasn’t very appropriate given that it was re-mixed dance music that made brunch feel like a spin class. The last thing you want when you’re carbo-loading is to feel like you’re supposed to be working out.
Dress – No need to dress up; you’ll fit right in with jeans and a sweater.
Cost – For food, drink, tax and tip, it was $15 per person. For all that food, it was a decent deal.
If you like, try… Tempo
written by hungry yuppie
Location – 212 S. Halsted (Adams and Halsted)
In one word – Patio
Food – Let me just say that in the hierarchy of Greek restaurants on the Halsted strip, Athena is not at the top. However, that being said, you wouldn’t be wrong to eat here. I’m just saying that you could get a better meal at Pegasus. We ordered the cold appetizer combo plate – Tzatziki (the cucumber yogurt dip), Taramosalata (fish roe dip, actually my favorite in the mix), Tirokafteri (spicy feta spread), Melitzanosalata (eggplant and garlic dip, too garlicky for me), Dolmadakia (it’s the grape leaves thing that no one at my table wanted), olives, feta and Kefalotiri cheese. You know it was good, but nothing I need again in the next month. We got the saganaki (flaming fried cheese) as well to start. Then I shared the vegetable mousaka (think Greek lasagna). I was satisfied and didn’t feel sick after the meal (that’s saying a lot). Those at my table who ordered the Greek salad were less than pleased.
Drink – So we had the same wine that I had at Pegasus, the white wine from Macedonia. Get this though, at Athena, the bottles are $6 more than at Pegasus!
Service – This was the place’s real downfall. We asked to sub out an item in our combo platter. It was like we were asking for him to give us his newborn baby. There was no budging until we convinced him it was his idea to swap out something on the platter.
Occasion – Come to Athena to sit on its outdoor patio. You have shade and a beautiful view of the city. They also seemed large group friendly.
Dress – Like the rest of Greektown, some like to dress up and some come in their regular denim garb. I don’t think that you will really make a mistake unless you show up in your hot pants and tube top.
Cost – We spent $24 each (party of 6) for our meal. For two bottles of wine, appetizers and entrees, that’s decent.
If you like, try…Pegasus, Quartino, Parthenon
Location – 130 S. Halsted (Monroe and Halsted)
In one word – Alfresco
Food – You’ll get an array of tasty appetizers at Pegasus. We indulged in saganaki (fried cheese), spanikopita (spinach pie), gyros, melitzanosalata (roasted eggplant) and kalamata olive dip. It was sort of like having Greek tapas. I was not disappointed with any of the dishes. The nice thing about Greektown is that you are rarely disappointed with the food. I left Pegasus fulfilled, perhaps a bit overfilled, but satisfied nonetheless.
Drink – We’re cheap, so we picked one of the cheaper white wines (Tsantali Makedonikos). In my attempt to be more of a sommelier, I’ll say it was a bit more acidic than I would have preferred. But, I still enjoyed.
Service – Any staff that patiently allows me to clumsily pronounce Greek entree names is good by me. I was very happy with the service, although it did take a while to get a refill on the bread basket…
Occasion – I go to Pegasus when it’s time to reunite with friends. I saw other large groups and many awkward couples dining near us. Go in the summer, they have a rooftop terrace which shows you an amazing view of the city. It’s one of those views that reminds you that Chicago is the best city in the country. Back in the day, they used to have live singers performing on the roof. Alas, during this last visit, the singers were not there. Reluctantly, I will get over it.
Dress – You’ll be fine in anything. Note though that people were not slumming it. Your alfresco sundress will suffice on the roof.
Cost – We split the bill 5 ways and paid $23 for loads of appetizers and two bottles of wine. We noted at the end of the meal that this was a bang for our buck.
If you like…, try – Citizen (for the alfresco-ness), Parthenon (for the Greek-ness)
Location – 301 S. Halsted
In one word – Fresh
Food – Oh my goodness, I don’t think of myself as a gusher, but I here I go: I love Meli Cafe. It’s a breakfast/brunch/lunch joint in Greektown with fresh, fun ingredients. I like the folks behind this place because they put great cheese in their food. Think about an omelet with asparagus and Gruyere topped with hollandaise. They have other non-cheese or egg stuff like the chocolate morsel pancakes with honey butter (meli means honey, so that’s the schtick here). Whatever you’re getting, it’ll be good.
Drink – In the morning, I find that I feel rejuvinated just with some fresh squeezed juice. Don’t even need coffee. Lucky for me, there are ample choices of fresh juices (and a wide variety of teas, coffees and SMOOTHIES) at MC for me to sample.
Service – MC is located in the heart of Greektown. I felt that everything except the cuisine was totally appropriate for that area. You know how the staff always makes you feel welcome at the Parthenon? They do the same thing at MC! You get the friendly service without the indigestion from OD-ing on saganaki.
Occasion – This is a morning place, come here for an early meal with friends or your family. You’re not rushed at your table, so you can take the time to catch up. The place is loud in a good way…you know those Olive Garden commercials with the loud, chatty, smiling families? Same vibe. Be sure to take into account the wait time. We had to wait 45 minutes for a table, but it really was worth it.
Dress – I saw the whole sha-bang here. Some hungover friend get-togethers to debrief on the night before and families coming by MC post-church.
Cost – Orange juice and omelet put me at $13.
If you liked…, try – Lula