Hsing Chen says she and husband Doug Psaltis were smitten upon visiting the space that has since become the couple’s new Greek restaurant. Andros Taverna opens Friday in Logan Square, near a park way where customers will eventually be able to grab a pastry and coffee from the walk-up window and relax on a park bench.
“There’s a lot of foot traffic,” says Chen, the former pastry chef at the world famous French Laundry. “A lot of people are out walking their dogs.”
The window won’t be ready for a few weeks, and the single-digit temperatures aren’t conducive to hangs in the park, but Chen and Psaltis see potential. It’s also an opportunity for Chen, a classically French trained pastry chef. The restaurant won’t have to rely on dinner to survive, as Chen’s pastries can bring in customers during the day. Eventually, they’ll place display cases on top of the bar filled with sweets like and olive and pistachio danish, a cinnamon roll made with flaky brioche, and sesame koulouri (“They’re not bagels,” Chen says.)
Right now, to reduce contact and the risk of contamination during the pandemic, Andros is offering pastry boxes. Chen’s pastries will also have a major presence during the weekends. This is Logan Square, a neighborhood where brunch crowds were normal before the pandemic. Chen hopes to see that energy return.
While the Romans call him Cupid, the Greeks refer to the winged god armed with a bow and arrow as Eros. So there’s a bit of a Valentine’s Day thread with Psaltis and Chen, along with Ryan and Anna O’Donnell (another husband-and-wife combo) from Ballyhoo Hospitality (Gemini, Coda di Volpe) who are partnering on Andros. As the city reinstated indoor dining at the end of January, Andros opens its dining room on Friday, but will also offer a to-go menu.
Psaltis is a New Yorker who made a name for himself with Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises — he’s the “P” in the company’s series of RPM restaurants. He abruptly left Lettuce in 2019. He’s built Andros’ menu around a wood-burning grill. Chen says diners will be able to see flames from any seat in the house. The smoke and char will benefit dishes like a lamb porterhouse: “It tastes more like a steak,” Chen says. “The texture, flavor — it’s so delicious.”
“The flames really warm up the space,” she adds.
Chen has applied her talents on the savory side, going through 10 recipes during the pandemic before perfecting her pita which will be fired in the oven to order. The bread is light and versatile, Chen says. Customers can roll it up and make their own gyros or dip it in mezes like eggplant moussaka. Other dine-in items include sea urchin dakos and grilled octopus.
But there’s more to Chen’s pastries, as she’s incorporating Greek flavors into nearly every item. The kitchen has a frozen yogurt machine, and Chen’s excite to offer a olive and pistachio “twist” Danish and a chocolate halva tart dipped in chocolate with coconut.
One item holds sentimentality for Psaltis and Chen: Chen would make cookies (kourabiedes) loaded with butter and powdered sugar for her father in law. Psaltis and Chen hope to open more restaurants down the line. But for now, their focus is Logan Square. Eros is certainly focused this weekend with his bow and arrows. Love is in the air.