Greek food might be the one cuisine that Chicago really does better than anyone else in the America. Luckily, Maria’s husband is from Greece, so we were comfortable following him all the way to Greek Islands, which is their favorite Greek restaurant because it’s consistently good.
Generally, my experience with Greek food had been limited to gyros, souvlaki, tzaziki, and spanakopita, so I was very excited to try some new dishes. It also seemed like a good way to purge the memory of the White Castle sliders we ate two hours before. Since we weren’t all that hungry, we ordered a variety of of small plates instead of entrees.
We started with Taramosalata, a blend of cod roe, potatoes, onions and olive oil. It’s described as Greek caviar, but it’s more of a dip that you can eat almost anything with it. I spread it on some bread and loved it because it’s a little salty, and you get the little crunch from the roe. It’s also pink.
The Greek salad was classic, but we discussed how this would taste with cucumbers in Greece since American cucumbers are fairly bland, as well as some heirloom tomatoes instead of the regular, boring supermarket tomatoes.
The Keftedakia are meatballs with tomato sauce. I could have had a couple more orders of this.
I’m normally not a fan of dolmas because they’re usually small and cold. At Greek Islands, the Dolmades are served hot with an egg/lemon sauce and they’re huge, with balanced mix of meat and rice. I’d eat these any time.
The grilled octopus was one of the best things we ordered. Meaty and grilled to perfection, my wife said this was better than the grilled octopus we had at Babbo…and that’s saying something.
Gyros are a Greek classic, and these were really good. Maria’s husband said that in Greece, gyros don’t look like shaved meatloaf as is traditionally the case in America. Instead chunks of meat are stacked on a spit, so when it’s sliced, you get…chunks of meat. Still, I loved the long strips of shaved meatloaf anyway.
Our last dish with the Flaming Saganaki Cheese. This is strictly a Greek American phenomenon. Basically, it’s salty cheese flambée. The server lit the cheese as he approached the table, and it was ablaze when it arrived. If you like fried or burnt cheese, this is definitely for you.
The service friendly and attentive, although I’m sure it didn’t hurt that our friends are regulars. I’m tempted to come back before we leave, but there’s a lot on our to-eat list. I do feel like Greek Islands gave us a solid foundation to use when we eat and evaluate Greek food from now on, which is indispensible.