Despite its name — taken from a character in Greek mythology — and the nationality of its chef, Nisos, an upcoming West Loop restaurant from the owners of Hampton Social, is not a Greek restaurant. Replacing Bad Hunter on the corner of Randolph and Halsted, Nisos is a modern Mediterranean restaurant, encompassing the entire region, from Spain to Israel.
The Hampton Social, a small national chain that started in River North, is known for its beachy, “rosé all day” vibe. Nisos will not be that, says owner Brad Parker: It will have an ever-changing menu, a higher price point due to the cost of flying in fresh ingredients from Europe and seafood from the coasts, and a higher level of service. The Hampton Social pays the bills, Parker says, but Nisos is an investment: “It’s like a Toyota versus a BMW.”
Much of this is because of chef Avgeria Stapaki, who moved to Chicago from Athens in 2020. Parker met her several years ago in Mykonos, where she was executive chef at Principote Mykonos, a beach club that could seat 700. Parker was impressed by the quality of her cooking, but he was even more impressed by the quantity: “She did 2,400 covers in a five-hour time period,” he says. “Over four months, she did 34 million Euros in business. She delivered the same quality as a 30-seat restaurant. She’s a rock star.”
Parker intends to fill both floors of the 9,000-square-foot space, which can fit between 225 and 300 people; Olya Volkova, head of OV & Co., a firm with several West Coast projects, is doing the design. Bad Hunter closed in June 2020 after the veggie-focused restaurant from Heisler Hospitality (Pub Royale, Estereo) suffered a bad string of luck, including a fire in 2018.
Randolph Street is only steps away from Chicago’s Greektown, but there will be nary a plate of flaming saganaki to be found. Although other Mediterranean and Greek restaurants have opened or are about to open in Chicago recently — Andros Taverna, Avli, and the upcoming Lyra from the owners of Bar Siena — Parker believes that Nisos will be unique.
“We’re bringing authentic coastal Mediterranean dining to Chicago,” he says. “At this point, I don’t know of anyone else who has done it. It’s different from what most Americans have labeled as ‘Greek’ or ‘Mediterranean.’”
Parker can’t say what, exactly, the menu will look like — he says that Stapaki, who is now like a sister to him, would slap him if he gave anything away — but there will be octopus.
“We’ll be delivering a high-quality, amazing food experience in a large-volume setting,” he says. “For a restaurateur, this is a very exciting opportunity.”
Crain’s first reported the news.
Nisos, 802 W. Randolph Street, Scheduled to open February or March 2022