One of the great things about living in Chicago or the surrounding suburbs is that from the neighborhood gyro joint to the famous restaurants of Greektown there is no lack of Greek food around for any eater on any budget. For a higher-end local Greek restaurant Glenview’s Periyali Greek Taverna (9860 N. Milwaukee) is fairly tasty, but for the price on the dinner menu it’s a little underwhelming.
With no real lack of Greek options in and around the area Periyali is hard to commend; the food is standard, if somewhat bland Greek fare, but the more pressing issue with Periyali is that it would be a perfectly fine place if it was just a bit less expensive and a bit more inviting. Lunch isn’t much cheaper than dinner and it’s hard to find a dinner entree for under $15. When you consider that no Greek meal comes complete without at least two appetizers and wine (if not some Ouzo) this really adds up.
The other issue is the atmosphere, it seems unlikely that the place ever experiences much of a rush. Even on a Friday evening Periyali could be described as dim, quiet and eerily empty. The décor is something like a TGI Friday’s take on the classic Greek taverna with clay pottery, signs advertising ferries to Greek Islands and the prerequisite mural of picturesque white villages with blue roofs. The staff was very helpful but overall the food was not remarkable enough or affordable enough to forgive the lack of liveliness that pervades Periyali. It’s formal enough to be a nice date spot, provided that you’re prepared for a nice quiet date.
It may not be fair to judge Periyali based on its indoor ambiance, as they’re really known for their spacious summertime patio. Unfortunately, I went on one of this week’s colder days and the patio wasn’t an option (as it no doubt is for almost nine months out of the year). Yet, now that Chicago’s small window of nice weather is upon us Periyali may be worth visiting if you are particularly fond of eating outdoors. Certainly a little sunshine would go along way to cheer up Peiyali’s atmosphere and the 'Opah's!' might be a tad bit more spirited during a nice summer afternoon.
On the positive end the wine was great and Periyali did seem to have a flair for simple Greek comfort food, which is probably what you'll end up eating if you didn't bring a $50 spot for a special and appetizers.As always the flaming cheese favorite saganaki was a good choice for a starter, but I couldn’t help noticing how expensive every other appetizer was. The pastitsio, baked macaroni mixed with lamb and béchamel sauce, is a guilty pleasure that tastes like a Mediterranean shepherd’s pie. I’d recommend this as a whole entree if you have the appetite for something that heavy. For lighter palates (and lighter wallets) there’s always the easy go-to's of mousakas and the gyros.
Everything in my order was hit or miss, even though I stuck to some extremely standard dishes. I suppose that if you order boring the result will be boring but I was surprised to find the Greek staple dolmades, grape leaves stuffed with rice and lamb served in lemon sauce, dry and bland. The lamb entree was similarly unremarkable, but hearty, and I ended up wishing I had more of that delectable pastitsio.
If I had the chance to do things over again I’d have gone with the waiter’s suggestion and chosen one of the seafood options. The tastiest of which is apparently the shrimp souvlaki, a kabob of marinated shrimp served with rice. Periyali may save Des Plaines residents the drive down to South Halsted Street, but all things considered this suburban taverna simply can’t hold a candle to anything on that famous stretch of Greek restaurants. It also seems pretty much on par, though perhaps a bit pricier, with the other area tavernas such as Mykonos in Niles (8660 Golf Rd.) and Psistariain Lincolnwood (4711 W. Touhy). Yes, it is good to see higher end Greek food in the suburbs, but that in itself is not remarkable and should not drive the good people of Glenview and Des Plaines to Periyali. These are the Chicago suburbs, after all; if you can’t find good Greek food nearby you probably aren’t looking hard enough.