2 for $25: Covo Gyro Market
1482 N. Milwaukee Ave. 312-626-2660
On an early date, you may not yet know whether your paramour is a picky eater. Should you take him to an ethnic restaurant, there's a chance he'll spend more time fussing with the food than locking eyes with you. In Wicker Park, it's Covo to the rescue. The new counter-service Greek restaurant from the owners of nearby Division Street eatery Prasino is nearly identical in set-up to a Chipotle, meaning the entire menu is customizable. But Covo has a totally different cuisine and a polished enough interior to make it appropriate for a casual date. Mix and match the signature gyros, salads, sauces, sides and even beer and wine for an accessible, affordable lunch or dinner. While it's not quite on par with local Mediterranean institutions such as Greek Islands or Athenian Room, Covo does boast its own pita recipe and spit-roasts its meat right there in the restaurant.
Main attraction: The build-your-own-meal approach. At the counter, choose the type of dish you'd like (gyro, mini pitas or salad) then choose your meat (lamb and beef, chicken or pork), sauce, toppings and sides. Don't like cucumbers? Leave 'em off. Want extra tzatziki and olives? Pile 'em on. I would gladly spend the extra $1.50 for the beef and lamb mix, which was much more flavorful than the tender but under-seasoned chicken. The pitas taste fresh and soft and benefit from a quick warm-up on the grill before they're piled with toppings. When it comes to sauces, the kicked-up Covo signature with roasted garlic and hot peppers and beats out the blah tzatziki. After my gyro was assembled (though not wrapped; Covo serves its gyros open-faced, leaving me to roll it up at my table), I chose sides of spicy feta dip ($3) and a tangy tabbouleh salad ($3). While none of the spices blew me away, the quality and juiciness of the meat was commendable.
Best value: If you're looking to squeeze the most out of your dollars, stick with the chicken or pork gyro ($7) to avoid the surcharge for lamb and beef, and skip the side salads and dips, which, at $3 for a serving the size of an ice cream scoop, are no bargain. The Greek-style fries ($4), topped with feta, lemon and spices would be a more substantial choice. Sweet tooth? Finish the meal with Greek yogurt with honey drizzle ($3.50).
Sample order: Beef and lamb gyro + chicken gyro + spicy feta dip and pita chips + tabbouleh salad = $23.60 with tax
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