Most Greek menus in Chicago--and much of the country--are dumbed-down lists of greatest hits.
Not so at Taxim, where dishes evolve from chef David Schneider's extensive research and summers spent eating with relatives in Greece.
And summer is the best time to go to the Wicker Park restaurant, whose current menu is dominated by local produce, selected by Schneider at farmers' markets three times a week.
We ran into him over the okra bin at the Wicker Park market, where he was gathering small green pods to sauté with garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, olive oil and fresh cilantro ($8). The Farmers' Market Trio ($15) recently featured blistered Melrose peppers, fried heirloom eggplant slices with yogurt sauce, and artichoke-potato-carrot salad laced with dill. Baby squash, squash blossoms, tomatoes, purslane and hearty greens make frequent appearances on that plate too.
His cooking represents how Greeks eat, says Schneider: "They emphasize local, and reserve meat for festivals and holidays."
Schneider's knowledge of Greek cuisine and its history could fill a tome. But first, a different project: A café on Taxim's roof, with a charcoal pit for cooking simple kebabs, small fish and vegetables. The décor: indigenous Greek vegetables, grown from seeds collected from his grandfather's island.
If all goes as planned, we'll be eating vlita (a thick-stemmed leafy green)--and more--by next May.
Taxim, 1558 N. Milwaukee Ave.; 773-252-1558 or taximchicago.com
Please check your inbox to verify your email address.