Chicago Fun With a Greek Touch
Over the last few decades, Gyros has certainly gained a reputation as one of the more popular Greek food items on menus across Chicagoland.
Gyros are essentially sandwiches made with thinly-sliced beef, lamb or chicken which is then placed in a pita or flatbread. Most gyros are topped with onions and tomatoes and enjoyed with Tzatziki sauce, a white creamy topping made from strained yogurt, cucumbers, salt, pepper, garlic and dill.
With this flavorful mixture served relatively cheap, it’s no wonder that Gyros has been a popular choice for hungry Chicagoans for over 50 years.
As the meaty dish is thought to have originated in Greece, the very first Gyros in America was actually served in the Chicagoland area. According to Elk Grove Village based Devanco Foods, the first gyros was reportedly served in 1965 at The Parkview Restaurant in Chicago by owner George Apostolou, also known as “Papa George,” the father of today’s gyros.
Also prominent in the early days of gyros was Chris Tomaras who opened Kronos Gyros in 1975 and is responsible for developing and marketing “Gyrokones,” large uncooked masses of gyro meat. Tomaras also invented the Kronomatic vertical meat broiler which helped standardize mass gyro production thus allowing gyros to spread to restaurants across the country.
Today Kronos is the world’s largest manufacturer of Gyros providing enough of the savory meat for 600,000 sandwiches per day.
The secret behind Kronos success? Tomaras told reporters in 2009 that it’s all in the ingredients...”we use the best beef and lamb and then run the meat through a four-ton grinder where bread crumbs, oregano and special seasonings are added.”
Incidentally, Gyros comes from the Greek word “Geero” which means “turn.” And nothing seems to be turning consumer’s heads - and taste buds - like those wonderful cones of
meat spinning every day in restaurants across America.
We now turn your attention to our favorite gyros spots across Chicagoland.
• Gyro Grill (Tinley Park)
Serving Chicago's southside, this exciting new eatery serves fresh Greek street food including gyros, kabobs, pitas, wings, spinach pie and more. Try the Saganaki bites and their unique egg rolls stuffed with gyro meat, feta and grilled onions. Fresh, fast and delicious food using Greek family recipes seven days a week.
15960 S. Harlem Ave. Tinley Park IL 60477 • (708) 620-8440
Visit the Gyro Grill website...
• Squabs Gyros (Melrose Park)
Bustling restaurant popular for its fresh homestyle cooking and generous portions. Grecian specialties include kabobs, Athenian style chicken, souvlaki, Greek salad and Squab's famous gyros. Other signature items include barbecued ribs, italian beef, broasted chicken, char-broiled burgers and more, including homemade soup prepared every day. Catering also available for your upcoming special event.
2348 Mannheim Road • Melrose Park IL 60164 • (847) 455-5205
Visit the Squabs Gyros website...
• QP Greek Food With a Kick (Hoffman Estates)
Greek-style pitas, meatballs, wings, pork chops, ribs, chicken and flaming Saganaki are just the beginning at this cozy and stylish Mediterranean eatery. Enjoy unique flavors with a kick in the clean and contemporary setting. Daily specials available along with QP's famous Gyros and Avgolemeno Soup. Try the popular Greek Feta Pizza and Caesar Salad. Full bar and catering.
830 N Roselle Road • Hoffman Estates IL 60169 • (224) 353-6999
Visit the QP website...
• Billy Boy's (Chicago Ridge)
Popular eatery on the south side known for flavorful gyros, outstanding bbq ribs, burgers, Greek Chicken, hot dogs and unique sandwiches. Hard working crew keeps this place clean and running smooth. Proudly serving Chicago's south suburbs since 1976.
6400 95th St, Chicago Ridge, IL 60415 • (708) 599-8406
Visit Billy Boy's website...
• Franksville Restaurant (Chicago)
Celebrating over 50 years, Franksville is proud to serve their famous gyros, Chicago-style Vienna hot dogs, burgers, tacos, chicken, barbecued ribs, homestyle milkshakes and more. Still one of Chicago's favorite food spots, the iconic restaurant also serves great daily specials, cheese fries and their famous foot long hot dog served with generous amounts of green relish, onions, mustard and tomato slices.
3550 N Harlem Ave • Chicago IL 60634 • (773) 237-5848
Visit the Franksville website...
• Brandy's Gyros (Chicago - Des Plaines - Hanover Park - Schaumburg)
Known for their famous gyros, bbq ribs and Athenian chicken, Brandy's uses only fresh ingredients to bring you a wide array of delicious Greek specialties and American favorites. Char-broiled burgers, chicken sandwiches, vienna beef hot dogs, italian beef and tasty mexican choices are just part of an extensive menu that has something for everybody. Four convenient locations to serve you.
6262 N. Harlem Ave, Chicago, IL 60631 • (773) 763-5862
Visit the Brandy's Gyros website...
• Dengeos (Skokie)
Friendly and spacious eatery serving up their signature Gyros plus BBQ Ribs, Greek Chicken, Skirt Steak, Salads, Burgers and more. Staff is friendly and attentive while portions are very generous.
3301 Main St, Skokie, IL 60076 • (847) 677-7911 (Two locations including Skokie and Buffalo Grove).
Visit Dengeos website...
• Johnny's Beef & Gyros (Chicago)
Serving the Lincoln Park area since 2005, Johnny's serves world class Chicago street food including their popular gyros, black angus chuck burgers, Italian beef, specialty salads and more. Other popular items include charbroiled chicken sandwiches, Maxwell street polish, homemade tzatziki spread and other Greek specialties. Two locations to serve you (Chicago and Joliet)
2300 N Lincoln Ave, Chicago, IL 60614 • (773) 697-8885
Visit the Johnny's Beef & Gyros website...
• Paps Ultimate Bar & Grill (Mount Prospect)
This friendly bar and grill has been serving the Mount Prospect area for over 21 years with their famous gyros, pizza, black angus burgers, wings and other favorites. Great drink specials, plenty of tv screens for sports fans and fun activities in the spacious bar area.
1904 S. Elmhurst Road • Mt. Prospect, IL 60056 • (847) 806-7733
Visit Paps Bar & Grill website...
• Zeus Restaurant (Chicago)
Unassuming and casual hangout known for their huge portions and clean environment. Enjoy their famous Gyros Sandwich/Plate, Gyros Cheeseburger, Italian Beef, Kabobs. Greek Chicken and more.
806 Jackson Blvd, Chicago, IL 60607 • (312) 258-8789
Visit Zeus Gyros website...
• Charcoal Delights (Chicago)
This bright and welcoming eatery uses an old-fashioned cooking process, "charcoal barbecued broiled," to serve delicious burgers, Vienna hot dogs, country broasted chicken, beef sandwiches, bbq ribs and their famous gyros. Friendly staff with top notch service.
3139 W. Foster Ave, Chicago, IL 60625 • (773) 583-0056
Visit Charcoal Delights website...
• Nick's Drive In (Chicago)
It's all about the homemade gyros at this casual old-fashioned diner celebrating 50 years on the northwest side. Also known for their burgers, hot dogs, Greek chicken, Italian Beef and more. Check the daily specials board and try their famous rice pudding!
7216 Harlem Ave, Chicago, IL 60631 • (773) 631-5045
• Mr. Greek Gyros (Chicago)
Long time Chicago favorite serving their famous Gyros Pita, Gyros Dinner Plate, Gyros Philly plus homemade beef, burgers, kabobs, hot dogs and more. Open 'til 4am for your late night cravings. You'll love their thick-cut fries.
234 S Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60607 • (312) 906-8731
Visit Mr. Greek Gyros website...
• Greek Islands (Chicago)
A classic restaurant destination for 48 years, they serve homemade gyros and traditional Greek specialties. Known for their quality and consistency, the popular restaurant serves Pastichio, Dolmades, Roasted Lamb, Moussaka, desserts and more.
200 S Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60661 • (312) 782-9855
Visit Greek Islands website...
• Athenian Room (Chicago)
Charming and cozy neighborhood restaurant serving delicious gyros, Greek feta burger, chicken kalamata, kabobs, spinach pie and more. The dining room is reminiscent of a small taverna in Greece.
807 W Webster Ave, Chicago, IL 60614 • (773) 348-5155
• Twins Gyros (Harwood Heights)
Known for their famous gyros and juicy chicken, this family owned restaurant makes their own tzatziki sauce and serves a very extensive menu. Popular items include their homemade soups, Italian beef, hot dogs, burgers and wings. The Greek fries are highly recommended!
4870 N Harlem Ave, Harwood Heights, IL 60656 • (708) 867-1313
Visit Twins Gyros website...
• Craving Gyros (Lake Zurich)
This cozy little spot in downtown Lake Zurich will surprise you with their famous gyros, vienna hot dogs, italian beef, charcoal broiled angus burgers and more. Very friendly staff is known for their personalized service. Gyros is fresh and hot served with homemade tzatziki sauce! Dining area is clean and comfortable which also includes outdoor patio.
2 E. Main Street, Lake Zurich IL 60047 • (224) 677-5115
The health benefits of yogurt have always been touted by health-conscious Americans. But these days, even those who once resisted yogurt are now embracing the Greek way. Few foods today pack as healthy a punch in such small serving sizes as Greek yogurt. The nutrients of Greek yogurt can help keep you fortified while also helping you lose weight. The richer texture of greek yogurt is also a big sell for lovers of the grecian brand.
Greek yogurt is made by separating out the liquid whey, explains Alissa Rumsey, a registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “This results in a thicker texture with fewer carbohydrates and sugar, and more protein than regular yogurt,” she says.
The Power of Protein
Protein is essential for good health. It is vital to cell growth, building muscle, and repairing tissue. As you age, you need more protein to keep your skin healthy and to fight off illness. Greek yogurt is a great way to boost your protein levels while avoiding heavy foods like meats. “Have it for breakfast and add in a handful of walnuts and blueberries,” Rumsey says. “Use it as a substitute for sour cream on top of chili or baked potatoes.”
Probiotics Help with Digestion
Greek yogurt is packed with probiotics. These are microorganisms such as bacteria and yeast. These normally live in your intestines, and having good microorganisms in your intestines helps keep you healthy, says Shane Griffin, a certified nutritional practitioner and founder of Whole Life Balance. “Without a healthy balance of good bacteria from probiotics, too much bad bacteria can build up and cause damage to our immune systems,” Griffin says.
Probiotics are great for the digestive system, and especially helpful to people who suffer from conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, he adds.
Good source for workout recovery
Greek yogurt can be a healthy and satisfying treat after a tough workout. Not only will it tide you over until your next meal, but it actually contains protein that can repair damage done by exercise.
“Greek yogurt is rich in the amino acids which make up proteins, and proteins are the building blocks for regenerating muscle tissue and repairing fiber damage,” explains Griffin. Add a banana or some berries for a nutrition-packed post workout snack.
Find Homemade Greek Yogurt In Chicago
Find homemade and other brands of quality Greek yogurt at these fine establishments throughout Chicagoland. Our favorite grocers offer homemade "Ya-Ourti" at Columbus Food Market in Des Plaines and Spartan Brothers (Touhy & Harlem) in Chicago. Other recommended sources include 95th Produce Market (Hickory Hills), Nature's Best (Westmont), Fiesta Market (Mount Prospect) and Village Market Place (Skokie).
You can also enjoy homemade Greek yogurt at some of our favorite restaurants including Plateia Mediterranean Kitchen (Des Plaines), Kefi Greek Cuisine (Palos Heights), Billy's Pancake House (Palatine), Mykonos Greek Restaurant (Niles) and Briki Cafe (Addison).
Read more about Greek yogurt:
I’ll never forget the first time I saw the light. I was just a kid enjoying dinner with my family when it suddenly appeared. The flame shot wildly towards the ceiling before being tamed by lemon juice and a waiter’s steady hand. The whole experience lasted only a few seconds but it changed my life forever.
It was a delicious rite of passage that delighted my senses on so many levels. Never before had I witnessed such a unique display of cheese, brandy, lemon and fire...presented finally with
a glorious shout of OPA! And my family ate it up.
Of course, we’re talking about Saganaki, the famous Greek cheese appetizer that is flambeed and served table side at restaurants throughout Chicagoland. That night, dinner out became a sort of celebration, a spontaneous reminder of how the little things often bring the most joy. It was almost as if our waiter had declared a one word blessing on our family as he placed the anticipated cast-iron plate at the center of our table...OPA!
Oh, the simple things in life.
But what does OPA actually mean? And why is it mostly associated with the lighting of Saganaki? Greeks and non-Greeks both agree that the word has very favorable connotations and is often used to express a myriad of positive emotions. Even though the expression is sometimes used to express playful frustration following mishaps, today it's very common to hear OPA! shouted at weddings, dances, birthdays and of course, restaurants serving the popular appetizer.
Legend also has it that the very first "SOS" (Saganaki OPA shout), happened right here in Chicago in the mid 1960’s. At Chicago’s late great Parthenon Restaurant (which lasted for 48 years on Halsted Street), owner Chris Liakouras was just trying to be creative one day when he took some random advice from an unknown female customer to flame the Saganaki she had ordered. And he happily obliged. But, alas, controversy quickly ensued when fellow restauranteur Petros Kogiones at the nearby Dianna’s Opa claimed his first OPA declaration occurred years earlier. In those days, an order of Saganaki cost $1.25 while a gallon of gas was 35 cents.
But no matter who started the verbal tradition, shouts of OPA! carry on every day at restaurants around Chicagoland, the country and even the world. Hungry patrons love to order the cheesy appetizer as a tasty and fun way to begin a great meal. And depending on where you dine, chances are you’ll be enjoying one of several fine brands of Saganaki cheese including Kefalograviera, Graviera and Kefalotyri. Brandy is the spirit of choice poured right before the cheese is flamed adding a zest of flavor to the mix and evaporating quickly to avoid a soggy Saganaki.
While the Greeks are definitely known for enjoying a wide variety of delicious foods within their culture, Saganaki certainly boasts strong cross-over appeal that makes it a unique staple on so many restaurant menus. So if you’re out today and feeling a little cheesy (sorry), let the gooey goodness of the endearing Greek cheese melt your taste buds and warm your heart.
Just like it did that night during my childhood when a tall waiter served our family with our very first Saganaki while joyfully shouting OPA! The aroma of flamed cheese wafting over our table created a memory this kid will never forget.
Oh, the simple things in life.
Enjoy flaming Saganaki at these fine Chicagoland restaurants:
• The Greek Islands (Chicago & Lombard)
The landmark restaurant is known for its consistency, quality, value and spacious yet cozy dining areas. Specialties include Pastichio, Roast Lamb, Dolmades, Hot or Cold Octopus, Greek Salad, Fresh Seafood, Lamb Chops and of course, flaming Saganaki. Say OPA! to Chicago's most popular Greek restaurant.
200 S Halsted St • Chicago IL 60661 • (312) 782-9855
Visit the Greek Islands website...
• Plateia Mediterranean Kitchen (Des Plaines)
A creative twist on traditional Greek cuisine, Plateia offers a refined setting to enjoy award winning Lamb Chops, outstanding Honey Custard Sweet Crepes, Biftekia, Chicken Skewers, Pastichio, Atlantic Grilled Salmon, Beet Salad, flaming Saganaki and more. Accommodating 20-150 people for private parties and other special events. Beautiful outdoor patio in seasonal months.
9860 N Milwaukee Ave • Glenview IL 60016 • (847) 296-2230
Visit the Plateia website...
• Demetri's Greek Restaurant (Deerfield)
Serving the north shore for over three decades, Demetri's offers classic Greek items including Moussaka, Fresh Seafood, Grilled Octopus, Roast Leg of Lamb, Gyros Platter and more. Guests also love the flaming Saganaki, Greek Salad, Jumbo Shrimp, Dolmades and Avgolemeno (Egg Lemon Soup). Cozy outdoor patio in warmer months.
660 Lake Cook Road • Deerfield IL 60015 • (847) 940-0777
Visit Demetri's website...
• Johnny's Kitchen & Tap (Glenview)
This favorite family restaurant in Glenview serves their famous wood roasted chicken, baby back ribs, rotisserie roasted pork, burgers, steaks, seafood and more. Start your meal with flaming Saganaki and enjoy Johnny's full wine list, craft beers, martinis and tempting desserts. Live entertainment in the lounge every weekend.
1740 Milwaukee Ave • Glenview IL 60025 • (847) 699-9999
Visit Johnny's website...
• Thassos Greek Restaurant (Palos Hills)
The newest Greek restaurant on the south side, Thassos has already earned a reputation for its outstanding food including Chicken Riganati, Fresh Whole Sea Bass, Appetizers, Salads, Pastichio, Roast Lamb and more. Enjoy flaming Saganaki and other traditional Greek favorites in Thassos' dining room or spacious lounge area.
11011 SW Hwy • Palos Hills IL 60465 • (708) 671-8958
Visit Thassos' website...
• QP Greek Food With a Kick (Hoffman Estates)
Greek-style pitas, meatballs, skewers, ribs and chicken are just the beginning at this stylish Mediterranean eatery. Enjoy unique flavors with a kick in the clean and contemporary setting. Daily specials available along with QP's famous Saganaki and Avgolemeno Soup. Try the popular Greek Feta Pizza and Caesar Salad. Full Bar and catering.
830 N Roselle Road • Hoffman Estates IL 60169 • (224) 353-6999
Visit the QP website...
• Yanni's Greek Restaurant (Glenview)
Enjoy Greek dining on a whole new level in the comfort of Yanni's beautifully refined dining areas. Serving Colorado Lamb, Octopus imported from Spain and traditional Greek items including Pastichio, Stuffed Chicken Breast, Double Cut Lamb Chops, Dolmades and more. Great appetizers include Flaming Saganaki, Greek Salad and Avgolemeno Soup.
2601 Navy Blvd. • Glenview IL 60026 • (847) 832-9000
Visit Yanni's website...
• Basil's Greek Dining (Aurora)
Blending old school values with modern flair, Basil's is a celebration of authentic Mediterranean dining serving appetizers, salads, pastas, shish kabobs, pork chops and more. Beautiful dining room with adjacent bar is the perfect setting to enjoy signature Greek dishes including Pastichio, Mediterranean Sea Bass, Grilled Octopus and Double Cut Lamb Chops. Private parties for up to 75 people.
4000 Fox Valley Center Drive • Aurora IL 60504 • (630) 692-1300
Visit Basil's website...
• Mykonos Greek Restaurant (Niles)
Serving authentic Greek cuisine for over 40 years, this legendary restaurant is known for their Charcoal Octopus, Souvlaki, Aegean-Style Salmon, Roast Lamb, Moussaka, Pastichio, Greek style fries and flaming Saganaki. Live Greek Music every Friday.
8660 W Golf Road • Niles IL 60714 • (847) 296-6777
Visit the Mykonos website...
• Naxos, A Greek Island Restaurant (Itasca)
Taste the spirit of the Mediterranean with signature Greek items including Grilled Calamari, Cold Octopus Salad, Greek Meat Balls, Fresh Red Snapper, Beef Tenderloin Kabob and Roast Leg of Lamb. Enjoy Naxos famous Avgolemeno Soup and Flaming Saganaki. Full bar and catering.
933 W Irving Park Road • Itasca IL 60143 • (847) 250-5410
Visit the Naxos' website...
• Blossom Cafe (Norridge)
A favorite family restaurant in Norridge, Blossom Cafe serves all your favorite breakfast items plus sandwiches, burgers, wraps, chicken, pasta, steaks and more. Popular Greek items include Greek chicken, salads, pork chops, Mediterranean Shrimp, Skirt Steak and flaming Saganaki. Banquet room available for up to 120 people.
8349 W Lawrence Ave • Norridge IL 60706 • (708) 453-5300
Visit the Blossom Cafe website...
• Alexander's Cafe (Elgin)
Enjoy an extensive menu at Alexander's featuring appetizers, sandwiches, wraps, burgers, tacos, chicken, pasta, fresh seafood and more. Grecian specialties include Athenian Salmon, Mediterranean Chicken, Greek Salad and flaming Saganaki. Weekend specials include Alexander's famous Prime Rib of Beef.
1725 N State St • Elgin IL 60123 • (847) 888-4146
Visit the Alexander's website...
• Niko's Red Mill Tavern (Woodstock)
This bustling restaurant features spacious dining areas with indoor and outdoor bars where customers can enjoy appetizers, burgers, wraps, pulled pork and other tavern favorites. Try the Greek Pizza, Mediterranean Wrap and flaming Saganaki. Niko's also hosts great live entertainment all year long.
1040 Lake Ave • Woodstock IL 60098 • (815) 338-6455
Visit Niko's website...