Ilios Noche Rises Above The Rest
If you want to a clear demonstration of the standard of service and cuisine required to not only survive as a restaurant, but to thrive and succeed in these strange times, one needs to give serious consideration to Ilios Noche.
I must confess that up until this summer, my last time to visit Ilios Noche was about ten years ago. Back then I was fresh out of college and getting my teeth kicked in everyday selling ads in the yellow pages. My mom wanted to try a new restaurant and said she’d treat me so enough said, right? I don’t remember much other than we sat outside- it was around dusk in the late spring, and I wondered how a nice restaurant in a strip mall with a patio overshadowed by Providence Road was going to make it with all the noise and construction commotion for the years to come.
My, my how the times have changed. According to vocal members of the restaurant-going public and my Restaurant Traffic colleagues, Xenia Hospitality Group (also responsible for Nolen Kitchen, Maverick, and Big View Diner) recently completed an overdue and well-received expansion to the interior. I’d describe the space as fun and classy with tight cozy booths and tables that encourage you to lean over your meal and really listen to those dining with you as the ambient noise of a thriving restaurant rises and lingers amidst the aroma of olive oil, and herbs, and delicious goodness streaming out of the kitchen.
Be forewarned: you need to make a reservation. I’ve been twice since July and in both instances the bar is humming at capacity and people are waiting in the foyer or outside. And as an added bonus, you’ll get live music like a guitar soloist or group of musicians playing while you eat.Â Restaurants like Ilios Noche (and to a great extent Bistro Le Bon) prove that chefs and restaurateurs with a passion for hospitality and dedication to flavorful, well-crafted cuisine can turn more tables in an unassuming strip mall than a prime location hitched to the side of SouthPark mall.
Lil’ Mama and I celebrated our new digs with a night out on the town and we didn’t hold back during our visit to Ilios, which I learned is a another name for ancient Troy. I don’t know what part of my fluoride-addled brain thinks spicy liquor sounds like a good idea (mayhaps the horseradish Bloody Mary soaked part of my pineal gland) but I was encouraged to see the pepper-infused vodka cocktail I fired back on my first visit no longer graced the bar menu on my second visit.
I find my will crumbles at the prospect of fried cheese and the Saganaki is not to be missed. This pan-fried sheep’s cheese is spongy and savory and browned up in all the right places from a flash in the old ouza which is more or less a Greek version of anise-flavored moonshine. A squeeze of fresh lemon, speckling of parsley, and a splash of extra virgin olive oil smooth out the graviera cheese’s saltiness and make for a heavy but delicious start to any meal.
“Greek Style” pork ribs. I read those words on the menu and pushed the dregs of my Hellfire martini away like a man recoiling in shocked disbelief. The prospect of a full rack of ribs, prepared with the same love and tenderness as the saganaki, and dry-rubbed with toasted coriander and lemon zest Â to form, what I envisioned to be, some gyro-flavored pork wonder meal was too much to believe. When I saw it came with tzatziki, I couldn’t resist and I was nervous. I needed a beer and ordered one- some white-wheaty summer slosh. Could this rack of ribs taste as amazing as I suspect it will? Am I going to be disappointed? Was I disappointed? Hell no. Those ribs were spectacular. Amazing. Like housing a gyro from Little Village Grill and walking right back in to order another. The meat is sloughing off the ribs tender (I call that zombie tender) and I end up eating them with my fork because the majority of the pork is piling up on my plate as I pick up the bones. The “Greek Style” ribs comes with ample sides: thick-sliced potato rounds and a tasty, full portion of kalamata olive cabbage slaw. I had to go Full Windsor and ordered a side of sautĂ©ed mushrooms to help lower my LDL. They were great but really a bit of overkill considering the amount of food before me. I felt like Robert Baratheon must at his nightly feast.
Lil’ Mama played it safe and opted for one of the homemade pasta dishes. I tried a couple bites and liked the smoky flavor of the chicken over the fresh twists of torichetti and baby spinach tossed with a creamy red sauce. Â Well-crafted, savory, and plenty of food. This is will please any pasta lover and also serves as a pretty safe dish for a picker eater not wanting to strain their tethers. How can you go wrong when the noodles are twisted by hand the day you eat them, right?
I’d recommend Ilios Noche to any and all of our readers especially since they expanded their operation. The team at Xenia clearly knows what they are doing in order to survive amidst the onslaught of restaurants during the Big Boom and then thrive despite the economic purge of the Great Recession. Ilios Noche is worth your time and your hard-earned money for a lunch or evening out in a nice restaurant just a couple doors down from the carwash Wendy’s, a cigar store, and Harris Teeter.