A fast-casual Greek restaurant from the owner of Avli Estiatorio should open on May 1 right next door to their suburban Winnetka location. Chef/owner Louie Alexakis is hoping his new concept that centers around spit rotisserie lamb and chicken — simply called Avli Restaurant & Rotisserie— is scalable and that he'll open more locations including one in Chicago.
Avli will focus on street food, "a really basic way of eating in Greece that hasn't really made it here in the states," said Alexakis. He's a former general manager at Greek Islands in Greektown and former proprietor of Ouzeri in Lincoln Park (it closed in 1997).
Diners at Avli will choose meats from eight spit vertical spits including Duroc pork, lamb and Greek chicken. Alexakis has held onto the idea for the concept for 12 years, and he understands he's not reinventing the wheel. He noted the cross-cultural similarities in Middle Eastern, Japanese and Mediterranean. That will bode well for Avli: "It is something pretty much most cultures can connect with," he said.
It might remind folks of Gyros On The Spit or Covo Gyro Market, but Avli could differ because of the chef. Alexakis opened Avli Estiatorio in 2009 and it's earned recognition from LTHForum as a Great Neighborhood Restaurant. That experience lends to understanding techniques and higher-quality ingredients. For instance, he talks about using Porchetta-style pork shoulder, capitalizing on the extra fat for flavor. The fingerling potatoes will be cooked with drippings from the spits. French fries will be wrapped in sandwiches like it would be served in Europe, but they'll be available as a side, too. They're also working on an island stew for colder days, as well entrees like suckling pig.
Expect counter service with 24 seats inside, plus sidewalk seating. They're looking at online ordering for quick work-week lunch pick ups, and they'll start as a BYO. Though Avli is "100 percent" a separate entity, the proximity to Avli Estiatorio is a boon, as Alexakis said he'll be able to check in on both restaurants and route staff accordingly. The May 1 opening date also holds significance, as that's the day Greek Orthodox Easter falls on this year. Serving a Greek Easter special to customers would be ideal for Alexakis.