Avli (702 N. Wells St.) is the third outpost from the Greek restaurant group of the same name, whose previous locations have found success in Lincoln Park and Winnetka. The new two-story spot offers a place to experience Greek food in an upscale setting, a combo that’s in short supply in the city. The vibe is much closer to Santorini than Greektown, thanks to white stucco walls decorated with kombolói (Greek worry beads) and fabric treatments. You can expect a lively atmosphere downstairs, owing to the long bar that spans most of the first floor. With only a small service bar upstairs, the dining room is a bit more intimate.
Think Greek drinks and you might immediately think of ouzo shots. Avli is on a quest to change that: While there is a good amount of the licorice-y liquor, the bar program is anchored by a deep wine list consisting entirely of Greek imports. Casual drinkers might have trouble navigating the list, so clever descriptions lend a helping hand. Consider the retsina from Thessaloniki that tastes “piney and robust, like French kissing Mr. Clean,” or the smoky red from Amyndeon that’s reminiscent of “picking tomatoes in the sun.” A small signature cocktail menu offers drinks made with Greek spirits and bitters, and there’s even a handful of Greek beers.
Avli’s dining menu consists of a variety of entrees and shared plates, with traditional dishes like saganaki and souvlaki alongside fare like astakomakaronada (lobster pasta with tomato-ouzo sauce). You can always fall back on a gyro as well: Avli’s housemade Berkshire pork recipe elevates the ubiquitous wrap a step above what you’d expect at a counter shop.