Greek food lovers in Chicago have some big news on Friday as Avli River North, the highly anticipated downtown restaurant, finally opens tonight. The modern Greek restaurant from chef Louie Alexakis and Fox Chicago sports anchor Lou Canellis is one of the most anticipated openings of the fall.
For opening night, the restaurant will only seat diners on the the first floor. Crews are still doing last-second work throughout the restaurant. City officials gave Avli more grief over approvals than the typical restaurant, Alexakis says, which delayed the opening inside the former Sumi Robata Bar space at 702 N. Wells Street.
Reservations for both floors are available for Monday and beyond via Tock. That’s enough time to plan for the “Greek feast,” a massive sampling of red snapper and barbecued leg of lamb served table side that requires 72 hours of advanced notice. Next month Avli will start serving lunch, but it begins with dinner only. Take out and delivery will also be available soon.
Alexakis is an avid historian of Greek food who simultaneously offers a contemporary approach. Chefs John Boudouvas (Francesca Group, Mia Figlia) and Billy Alexopoulos (Maple & Ash, Etta) work with him in River North. Their menu highlights include katafi prawns (prawns baked in shredded filo dough with Boukovo pepper mayo), moussaka (a carry over from Lincoln Park with lamb shoulder), and astakomaronatha (lobster pasta with ouzo-tomato sauce).
Alexakis, a Chicago restaurant veteran, launched the Avli brand in suburban Winnetka in 2009. Critics took notice and he began making plans to expand it to the city, starting with opening the smaller sibling Avli Taverna last year in Lincoln Park. Alexakis’s first restaurant, Ouzeri, was also in Lincoln Park and opened in 1996.
Chicago’s Greektown has undergone changes in recent years, as West Loop development has dwarfed the immigrant enclave and the city has said goodbye to some long-time favorites. That’s one of the reasons Avli River North’s opening is a big deal: It’s the first high-profile Greek restaurant to open in downtown Chicago in years.
Check out its menus below. Avli River North opens tonight at 5 p.m. Stay tuned for a photo tour of the dining rooms.