Doug Psaltis, the “P” in the celebrity-focused “RPM” group of restaurants, has been quiet since his mysterious 2019 departure from Lettuce Entertain Your Enterprises. Now the former partner with Chicago’s largest restaurant company is back in the limelight with plans for a new Logan Square restaurant. Psaltis says Andros Taverna, a modern Greek restaurant, will be the first concept from Andros Restaurant Group. It’s a joint venture with Ballyhoo Hospitality, which co-owns restaurants including Gemini in Lincoln Park, Coda di Volpe in Lakeview, and Sofia Steak in suburban Wilmette. Psaltis’ wife — veteran pastry chef Hsing Chen — is creating the breads and sweets.
The anchor for Andros Taverna will be a wood-fired oven that’s visible from most angles inside the 110-seat restaurant. Psaltis says he wants to fill the space with ambrosial aromas of lamb shanks, charcoal chicken, and kataifi cheese pies. While Greek food carries a stereotype in being meat heavy, Psaltis says his restaurant’s menu will be 80 percent vegetarian. Items like eggplant moussaka will benefit spending time in the oven and kissed with smoke.
Psaltis spent time at Thomas Keller’s French Laundry, near Napa, California — long considered one of the best restaurants in the world. Hsing also worked there, and her pastries will have a chance to shine for weekend brunch. She’s working on sesame koulouri, a bread ring that’s a Greek specialty. Look for other riffs on Greek food including vanilla soufra and halva chocolate mousse.
Neither Psaltis nor Lettuce Entertain You have confirmed the reported reasons behind their split. In 2019, three former Lettuce Entertain You workers said Psaltis left after allegedly grabbing and shaking a subordinate at RPM Steak in River North. Speaking recently, Psaltis wouldn’t directly comment about the circumstances leading to his departure other than he “would probably tell the story a little differently” compared to what was reported.
“Everybody is entitled to their opinion,” Psaltis says. “I didn’t write the story, but I sometimes live them.”
Psaltis says he’s maintained a cordial relationship with LEYE co-founder Rich Melman, having talked to his former boss recently. LEYE declined comment for this story. This leaves questions surrounding Psaltis’ 2019 exit unanswered.
Over the last year or so, Psaltis says he’s reprioritized what was important to him, adding that he’s proud of his work at Lettuce where he was an executive chef who developed restaurant concepts, including Studio Paris. The RPM line is one of the company’s crown jewels thanks to a partnership with celebrity couple Bill and Giuliana Rancic. Bill is a suburban native who won the the first season of The Apprentice, the reality TV show from former President Donald Trump, while Giuliana interviews celebrities as an anchor on E! Network. After Psaltis’ departure, LEYE unveiled its multi-tiered complex along the Chicago River that houses RPM Seafood and Pizza Portofino.
“The saddest part is I assembled a great team... that I led and mentored for many years,” Psaltis says. “And that’s what I missed the most.”
Logan Square offers a fresh start, and unlike at RPM where he was charged with creating recipes and establishing the ambience, Psaltis will be on the kitchen line. He says he’s eager to start cooking again. Downtown moves at a different pace, and starting fresh away from the hustle and bustle appears to suit Psaltis and company. In partnering with Ballyhoo, Psaltis will benefit from the company’s success in running neighborhood restaurants.
For their first project, Psaltis is keen in evangelizing his roots. He lauded modern Greek chefs like Louie Alexakis (Avli), Jimmy Bannos Sr. and Jr. (Purple Pig), and David Schneider (Taxim). As West Loop development bites into Greektown, restaurants like Psaltis’ take on additional importance. Psaltis has also seen the Greek hub in Astoria, Queens — home of his grandfather’s diner — change in the similar fashion. Psaltis lamented the rise of “beautiful, glimmering office buildings” that have transformed the immigrant centers: “That hurt a little bit,” he says.
In the 2000s, Psaltis was a rising star in New York before leaving for Chicago. At Andros Taverna will feature a garden terrace the juts out to a new park space of outdoor seating, as well as a takeout window. Psaltis also mentioned an air filtration system from Atmos Air designed to reduce the risk of spread of COVID-19. Psaltis feels the filters will eventually be mandated by government, much like sprinklers and other fire mitigation systems.
Cheng and Psaltis join an illustrious set of wife-and-husband teams cooking at Chicago restaurants including Karen and John Shields (Smyth), Anna and David Posey (Elske), Danny Espinosa and Jhoana Ruiz (Santa Masa Tamaleria), and Genie Kwon and Tim Flores (Kasama). Ballyhoo’s partners, Anna and Ryan O’Donnell, are also married.
The group plans to open Andros around Valentine’s Day with takeout, but Psaltis is mindful how quickly the environment changes. It’s wait and see, but Valentine’s Day packages are already available for preorder.