Located within walking distance of storied Greektown, the newest member of the DineAmic Hospitality family (Bandit, Prime & Provisions, Siena Tavern) is not serving your yia yia’s dolmades. Instead the team tapped two chefs straight out of Mykonos to bring bold tastes of contemporary Greek cuisine to Chicago at 905 West Fulton Street.
“We’ve always had our sights set on a Greek concept. Four years ago, we were in Mykonos and met our chefs at a property they are partners in called Scorpios,” says David Rekhson, principal and co-founder of DineAmic Hospitality. “After tasting their food and understanding their style, we knew we wanted to get to know them further.”
Chefs Athinagoras Kostakos and Alexis Zopas are known for a slew of concepts, including Scorpios on Mykonos and Meraki in London. Lyra is the duo’s first U.S.-based property. With the chefs’ commitments abroad as well as the ongoing travel difficulties caused by the pandemic, the team did what many have learned to do the past two years: collaborated remotely.
“The good news is, with the pandemic, everybody has been forced to acclimate more to remote work and collaboration,” Rekhson says. “We’re tasting food over Zoom and saying, ‘What do you think of this?’” The resulting concept is a tested island escape without needing to get on a plane.
Both the food and the decor of Lyra revolve around the charcoal- and wood-fired ovens in the open kitchen. Start with hummus and charred beets before moving onto dishes such as charcoal-grilled meatballs with smoked yogurt. In addition to its emphasis on open-fire cooking, Lyra will offer a blend of traditional Greek ingredients with locally sourced produce — think local heirloom tomatoes served with barrel-aged Greek feta and capers.
“On one hand, we’re trying to import a lot of the things that are not fresh — whether it’s capers, olive oil, or cheeses, those are actually coming from Greece,” Rekhson says. “Whenever it’s something that needs to be fresh, we’re really trying to buy local.”
If you’re looking for gyros, Lyra does indeed serve them. However, these gyros have a deconstructed look and are made with whole lamb shoulder slow roasted in the charcoal oven for ten to 12 hours. It’s then served with house-made pitas, tomato and red onion relish, and cultured yogurt tzatziki. At $45, it’s likely to be the most pricey — and most memorable — gyro-eating experience you can find in Chicago.
Lyra’s commitment to offering a slice of Greece extends to its beverage program. The wine list is made up of 50 percent Greek wines, high acid and high minerality varietals that are perfect paired with Mediterranean cuisine. These include bottles such as Sigalas Assyrtiko from Santorini and Sclavos “Vino di Sasso,” or “Wine of Stone,” from Robola.
Cocktails take a cue from Greek island life, too — slow down with a Lyra martini or spice things up with a Myokian Mezz. The former features olive oil-washed vodka as well as olive juice and feta blue cheese olives.
Earth tones and textures — woven textile chandeliers and travertine floors — were selected to give the restaurant a mellow ambiance reminiscent of that vacation you’ve been postponing for two years. Hand-carved wooden details and ceramic pots are also strewn throughout the space. Weather permitting, the restaurant features a large covered patio that’s connected to the main bar via a thatched trellis adorned in greenery. Accented by a soundtrack of Greek musicians and DJs, close your eyes and prepare to be transported to the Agean.
Lyra is now open Sunday through Thursday from 5pm to 12am and Friday and Saturday from 5pm to 1am. The restaurant will also be introducing lunch and brunch hours soon.