The second location of Stax Cafe, a Taylor Street breakfast favorite, should open in mid- to late-June near the Milwaukee/Grand/Halsted intersection in River West. Spiro Tsaldaris and his family have been serving up creative pancakes and egg Benedicts, fresh turkey burgers, and more since 2010 in Little Italy. The restaurant has become popular with UIC students, workers at the nearby Illinois Medical District, and sports celebrities. Basketball players including LeBron James, retired former Bull and University of Illinois star Kendall Gill, and Blackhawks announcer Pat Foley are among Stax’s customers.
The new restaurant, 522 N. Milwaukee Avenue, is about double the size of the original with 140 seats and a 30-seat patio. Unlike his first location, Tsaldaris said it’ll serve alcohol in River West. Think mimosas, Bloody Marys, and bellinis. It’ll also open for breakfast and lunch.
Breakfast is Tsaldaris’s favorite meal, and he often finds himself eating pancakes and other morning items for dinner. His favorite pancake on Stax’s menu is the “Healthy Start,” a recipe his wife, Heather, created: oatmeal batter mixed with fresh blueberries and topped with Greek yogurt, blueberry compote, lemon zest, granola and drizzled with honey. Other standout items include the “Parma Prosciutto” egg Benedict: an English muffin with sliced prosciutto, avocado, poached egg and Hollandaise. Stax will serve the same menu at both locations, including fresh juices.
Repeat customers from word of mouth and the occasional celebrity have made Stax successful, Tsaldaris said. It received a little publicity when James ate breakfast there, but the NBA star didn’t make them.
“LeBron didn’t make me a millionaire or anything like that,” he said.
Over the next few years, Tsaldaris envisions more buildings and more people living in River West and hopes he can start fostering strong relationships that will translate to loyal customers in the future. His father, Chris, has been a mentor. The family ran Brandy’s, a 24-hour diner near Midway International Airport. For a three-year period, they also ran Eppel’s Restaurant in the South Loop.
While he learned a lot from working as a host when he was a teenager, Tsaldaris explained that Stax is a different. They’ve evolved with times to use fresher ingredients and to cater to gluten-free and meat-free diets. Tsaldaris is proud to be part of Chicago’s elite culinary scene and is confident that Stax measures up. Tsaldaris takes pride in Stax’s condiments, including a series of gourmet aiolis on the side.
“I really think Chicago can attest to any style of food quality and quantity wise,” he said. “Anything you can think of, you can’t beat us.”
The new restaurant’s design will be more modern, but Tsaldaris said he wants to surprise customers and didn’t want to share too many details on what to expect. They can find out when Stax River West opens in about a month. Check back later for an opening date.