By Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host Published Oct 28, 2022 at 10:01 AM

’Tis Dining Month, the tastiest time of year! This means we’re dishing up fun and fascinating food content throughout October. Dig in, Milwaukee! OnMilwaukee Dining Month is served up by Potawatomi Hotel & Casino and Wollersheim Winery & Distillery.

One of the city’s most beloved restaurant locations will soon have both a brand new tenant and a restaurant concept which fills a long-held gap in the Milwaukee dining scene.

This spring, Chicago’s Avlí is slated to open a modern Greek concept in the vacant space at 1818 N. Hubbard St.. The space most recently housed View MKE. which closed in fall of 2020 and never reopened. Between 2004 and 2018, the restaurant was home to Roots and Wolf Peach.

Former View MKEX

Co-founder Louie Alexakis, who operates five distinctive Avlí locations in Chicagoland, says that they have been looking at opening a restaurant in another market for over two years. They zeroed in on Milwaukee because it was a market they felt would appreciate what they bring to the table: a regional Greek concept featuring scratch-made fare which offers a high quality hospitality-driven experience that’s casual and approachable.

Currently, the Milwaukee location remains unnamed. But, much like the other Avlí venues – each of which has its own unique focus – it will strive to be a lively destination where diners choose to go again and again.

“The goal is for it to be a place that people immediately think of when they want to get a bite and have a drink” he says.

Utter transformation

Alexakis says that they plan to fully transform the two-floor restaurant  to reflect a warm, Mediterranean-inspired aesthetic. That means ridding the restaurant of its darker elements, including the dark flooring and eliminating the rustic wood and barn board in favor of white walls and natural elements including plants, greenery and lighter, natural wood tones.

“Even if you go to a little beachfront tavern in Greece, you’ll find natural elements, including beautiful blooming bougainvillea,” he says. “This place needs to give you a happy feel.”

And yes, Avli will greet the clement months with al fresco dining on its stunning patio overlooking the Milwaukee skyline. After all, outdoor dining is a major tenet of Greek culture.

Patio viewX

Regional Greek fare

The menu at Avli will look beyond well-known Greek-American specialties, offering diners a taste of modern Greek fare that reflects the diversity of the cuisine.

“Greek is not just Athens or the Islands,” says Alexakis. “Much like Italy, there’s a wealth of regional food in Greece. And having the ability to share a broader style of cuisine has been important to me since I started my first restaurant in 1995.”

He points to the ubiquitous Greek-American gyro, made with beef and lamb, which was invented in Chicago in the mid-1960s before taking off in the 70s. The dish in Greece, on the other hand, is traditionally made with pork.  “When people try it, they’re blown away,” he says. “They’re two very different dishes.”

Chefs at each of the Avli locations have creative freedom when it comes to the menus, so offerings vary. The Milwaukee location is likely to feature some dishes which are popular at the other restaurants; along with some that are its own.

That’s likely to include familiar items including Greek salad, chicken souvlaki and spinach pie are likely to co-exist on the menu with lesser known items like kataifi prawns, which are enveloped in shredded phyllo and served with spicy mayo and herb oil.

kataifi prawns
Photo: Mac Yellek / Avli

“I think our food is as good as you can get anywhere in the world, including Greece,” he says. “And it’s because we don’t take shortcuts. We make our own stocks. We make sauces from scratch, and our spinach pie is made the way they would in any household in Greece.”

Spinach pie
Spinach pie (Photo: Mac Yellek / Avli)

Guests can expect a full bar with a robust selection of Greek wines, as well as Greek spirits, including lesser known offerings like masticha, a liqueur with an earthy, musky, vanilla-like flavor.

The restaurant will also offer a menu of signature cocktails including the Trellis with fig infused rye whisky, Metaxa brandy, Roots Tentura tea bitters and an Ouzo rinse; and Teach Me To Dance featuring vodka infused with Greek wild mountain tea, bergamot orange, thyme, honey and lemon.

Teach Me To Dance Photo: Mac Yellek / Avli

Kefi, meraki and philoxenia

Alexakis says the Avli experience can be summed up in three Greek words: kefi, meraki and philoxenia. Kefi is a term which embodies joyfulness and being happy in the moment. It’s also a word which he says describes what they hope to provide to diners.

The second is meraki, a Greek term which embraces the notion of being passionate about what you do. This word, he says, speaks to the kitchen and front-of-house staff who are encouraged to share their passions and talents with guests.

The third is philoxenia, a word which describes eagerness to welcome and embrace strangers. It embodies the hospitality they hope to offer to guests at Avli.

“A great deal has changed over the past few years in terms of the expectations for dining out,” says Alexakis. “Dinner out has become the center of a night out; it’s an experience. 

It’s an opportunity to relax, de-stress and enjoy yourself. We want to ensure that people have an exceptional experience and that they immediately think about coming back another time.”

Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host

Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club. 

When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.