Neighborhood Gems: Taxim

Some of the country's best Greek food can be found in Wicker Park

Last month, Tasting Table asked readers for their favorite neighborhood gems. Now we're introducing the winning picks.

To those in search of a menu of Greek culinary classic hits, Taxim is not for you.

Sure, there are gyros on the menu, but ones made of spit-roasted duck breast or sea bream swaddled in Pontian satz (a flatbread specialty of Black Sea-dwelling Greeks; $23). The four-year-old Wicker Park gem mines regional Greek cuisines–from Cypriot pork sausage to chestnut-packed Cretan braises.

Grilled grape leaf-wrapped shrimp (Photos: Kailley Lindman)

This is because chef David Schneider is part anthropologist and part locavore, with Greek tradition and local produce as his confederate muses.

In late fall and early winter, this means grilled Michigan apples flanking honey-glazed smoked pork belly, Indiana chestnuts simmering in meaty braises, and quinces stuffed with braised goat, cooked in goat butter and served with a scoop of yogurt. That yogurt is made in-house a few times a week, and its flavor and texture are unlike any that comes from grocery store shelves.

Taxim's interior and traditional Greek cookies (Photos: Kailley Lindman)

Taxim's vegetable section alone is packed with fodder for a lavish feast: roasted beets with fiercely garlicky skordalia ($8), sautéed greens with seared halloumi ($7) and abundant dips to scoop with house-made pita. There's always a whole-roasted fish ($32) on hand, and grilled grape leaf-wrapped shrimp ($12) are excellent oceanic dolmades.

Schneider is a passionate ambassador for Grecian cuisine, but his Greek clientele is at the center of his focus. "That's who I'm cooking for," he says. "They have a very critical point of view about anything you're trying to do with their culture. Once you get legitimacy and approval from them, you're good...but they definitely keep me in line."

Our other favorite Wicker Park/Bucktown Neighborhood Gems: Cumin, Trenchermen, Antique Taco and The Bento Box