Kefi brings homestyle Greek cuisine to Evanston dining scene

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Sherry Li/The Daily Northwestern

Kefi Greek Tavern, located at 1014 Church St., opened over the summer as an extension of restaurant and entertainment venue 27 Live. Kefi offers both traditional and modern Greek cuisine.

Hangda Zhang, Reporter

Local restaurateur John Tasiopoulos, who owns Evanston businesses 27 Live and Old Neighborhood Grill, has established a new restaurant meant to bring to the city what he calls “the essence of being Greek.”

Kefi Greek Tavern, which celebrated its summer opening in a ribbon-cutting ceremony last week, is intended to give downtown Evanston visitors a taste of traditional Grecian cuisine in addition to more modern dishes.

“We are using family recipes from the owner’s mom, Maria Tasiopoulos, to make authentic Greek food,” said Gary Mendelson, the restaurant’s general manager.

The owner renovated and renamed the restaurant portion of 27 Live, a food and entertainment venue at 1012 Church St., to establish Kefi in downtown Evanston. Kefi is located at 1014 Church Street, right next to Tasiopoulos’ 27 Live.

The name Kefi comes from a Greek word that means “the spirit of joy, passion, enthusiasm, high spirits or frenzy,” according to the restaurant’s website.

“It is the spirit and energy that drives the philosophy of an entire nation … and translates directly into a menu where one can find time-tested and modern signature dishes,” Tasiopoulos said in a news release.

The restaurant offers a modern take on traditional Grecian dishes, such as grilled octopus served with a kalamata vinaigrette. It also features a bar offering beer, liquor and Greek wine.

Mendelson said before Kefi’s opening, Tasiopoulos’ mother came to the restaurant and taught employees how to prepare her family recipes.

The restaurant’s decor is designed at making diners feel comfortable in the restaurant, Mendelson said. Sparkling lights hang from the ceiling and small statues of people dressed in traditional Grecian garb show the restaurant’s dichotomy between new and old.

“We don’t go with traditional Greek restaurants,” he said. “We are trying to make customers feel like home, not like in a restaurant.”

Paul Zalmezak, an Evanston economic development official, said Kefi will help to further diversify Evanston’s dining scene.

Elaine Kemna-Irish, executive director of the Evanston Chamber of Commerce, said the city’s dining scene is becoming more vibrant than surrounding suburbs, with diners frequenting downtown restaurants throughout the week rather than just on weekends.

“If you go to any other suburb, they’re more sleepy,” she said. “People go out from Wednesday to Saturday. … We have people eating out on Monday and Tuesday nights in Evanston.”

Rachel Yang contributed reporting.

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