In the spring of 2009, a new Greek restaurant opened in Chicago – and it was not in Greektown. Instead, Chef and owner David Schneider who, like me, is of Greek and German heritage, chose Wicker Park. The location is not the only difference between the typical restaurants one can find on the six-block stretch of Halsted Street known as Greektown. Instead of white-washed walls, Greek flags, and saganaki – the popular flaming cheese dish actually invented in Chicago – diners at Taxim (pronounced “tak-seem”) experience Byzantine décor, wall tapestries that represent traditional iconography, and authentic regional Greek fare that is sophisticated and provincial. Taxim simply elevates traditional Greek food to another level.
The menu at Taxim is broken into three categories: salads and vegetables, small plates, and mains. Vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free diners can all be accommodated. Additionally, Taxim sources much of its produce from local farmers, and all bread, pastries, phyllo, charcuterie, yogurt, and preserves are made in house. Local, fresh, and house made foods can make all the difference in flavors, and that fact is not lost of Chef Schneider. The depth of flavors in every dish is remarkable and signifies the importance of including fresh produce, meats, cheeses, and olive oils in the Mediterranean diet.
All dishes are meant to be shared, and food will come out of the kitchen as prepared. Be sure to alert your server if you want your dishes to be spaced out so that you do not feel too rushed or want your table too full of plates. Service is friendly, attentive, and responsive. The kitchen tends to use a heavy hand to season its dishes, so if you do not like your food overly salty, make sure your server knows.
To begin, the pantzária me karydoskordaliá – roasted beets served atop a walnut-garlic puree – a classic taverna dish, is an absolute must. The flavors are beyond comprehension. So, too, is the prassópita – leeks, fresh dill, lemon and goat feta, all smartly tucked away in fresh, house made phyllo. Each bite was better than the last as the flavors blended together and the fresh phyllo melted effortlessly away on the tongue.
Also worth a taste are the rokasaláta – baby arugula, cucumber, pita chips, and kefalotýri cheese – which sounds simple, but is much more complex with the addition of the sumaki vinaigrette, as well as the perfectly cooked htapodáki sti schára – wood-grilled octopus that sits atop fennel and red onions. A squeeze of lemon highlights the flavors of the tender octopus. Every good Greek also loves his dandelion leaves, and Taxim’s nerokárdamo kai séskoula – sautéed wild watercress and swiss chard – will make any skeptic a dandelion believer.
The bámies laderés – baby okra with sun-dried tomatoes, fresh coriander, and olive oil – had good flavor, but did not compare to the other standout dishes. The garídes se abelófylla dolmádes – wood-grilled fresh grape leaf wrapped shrimp – had promise, but were so overly seasoned that the flavors of the food itself were completely lost. However, Taxim quickly recovered with its tsipoúra me radíkia – oven-roasted whole Aegean sea bass, simply served with lemon, olive oil, and the requisite sautéed dandelions.
The wine list is fully comprised of Greek offerings. Your server will offer assistance, but I recommend anything by Alpha Estate – especially the “Axia,” a mix of syrah and xinomavro grapes, as well as the wines by Domaine Skouras, including the “Grand Cuvee” and “St. George” agiorgitiko, the most widely planted red grape variety in Greece.
Next time you want to say “opa” to some ethnic culinary delights that highlight the regional flavors of Greece, bypass Greektown and head to Taxim. You will thank me later.
1558 N. Milwaukee Avenue
Chicago, IL 60622