What do you make of a restaurant that beckons to customers with the hand-painted words "grapeleaves, hot wings, falafel, Greek salad, french fries and fried chicken" on its front window? And what if the restaurant has been in your periphery for about a decade, as the items were added to the window like a roster of star attractions? Eventually, you might want to try it so that's what I did, finally stopping into Theo's, a shanty on Michigan Street with a willy-nilly menu of Greek, Syrian and fried Southern specialties.
Theo's has managed to be a subtle, steady spot for regulars to pop in to pick up a family-pack chicken meal with hummus on the side. Inside it's awash in bright-blue booths and decorated with Greek Orthodox paraphernalia; it's been around for so long it feels lived-in and homey but not in an accommodating sort of way.
The woman behind the counter will take your order then proceed to the kitchen to make your food. Her young daughter will watch you. It's that kind of place. I took a haphazard approach to ordering, getting one of just about everything. The gyro ($4.29), a standard pita wrapped around compressed lamb meat, was better than the shawarma ($4.49), a tahini-laden sandwich, or the less-than-spectacular but good-value hummus ($2.99).
Surprisingly, what made my multinational meal stand out was the fried chicken, which was superbly seasoned then fried in peanut oil. Chicken selections range from a two-piece snack for $2.35 to a 21-piece family dinner for $25.99. Even the chicken livers ($4.49) are great. Forget KFC Theo's is much better. And you can finish off with a toothsome baklava ($1.99).
So, what to make of Theo's? Stick with the fried chicken at this Syrian/Greek establishment, and you can't go wrong.