New restaurant offers international cuisine

By KatherineGamby

Music surged as patrons danced on mahogany floors in between sipping sangria and sampling appetizer trays of pepper-crusted tuna and Caribbean ceviche. Men leaned against the bar, centered in the middle of the room, hoping to catch the attention of women dancing across the room. Women sat conversing on comfortable sofas tucked inside cutaways in the lounge walls with pulled-back curtains. This was the opening of Mezé Tapas Lounge in the West Loop.

More than 300 people attended the grand opening night of Mezé Tapas Lounge, 205 N. Peoria St., on Nov. 21. The restaurant and lounge features a wide variety of cultures displayed through food and music, which is chosen by the management.

“The creative direction of this place was taken from a bit of my own likings from what I’ve experienced in this city and through traveling,” said Stavros Korogilas, co-owner of Mezé Tapas Lounge.

Korogilas, who attended Columbia for three years as a photography major, collaborated with Manny Cont, who is Korogilas’ father’s neighbor, to create Mezé Tapas Lounge.  The restaurant was a previous venture of Cont’s that proved unsuccessful, so he opened it to Korogilas to make artistic reconstructions. He based Mezé, which means appetizer in Greek, off of his international travels to countries like Spain, Puerto Rico and Greece. He said celebrating life through dining experiences is key overseas.

“I think that’s becoming lost over here in America, but I think people are trying to find alternatives to their work lifestyles,” Korogilas said.

Which, he said, Mezé Tapas Lounge is the solution for, especially for people wanting to dine in a lounge setting.

“It’s really a lifestyle that we’re trying to sell you here between hanging out with your friends, catching up, having some drinks [and] some appetizers … [and] celebrating time together in a cool environment,” Korogilas said.

The food, which is priced as low as $6, and the music create an atmosphere with an international vibe, which Korogilas said the restaurant is trying to achieve. The menu is composed of foods from all over the world, which the chef specializes in.

“I did not put too much sushi or Japanese cuisine [on the menu] because everyone is doing that,” said Antonio Lopez, executive chef at Mezé Tapas Lounge. “We’re just trying to do a couple of dishes of this [and


Lopez has worked as an executive chef for 25 years at the Ritz Carlton and cooked in other restaurants like Lawry’s Prime Rib before he responded to a Craigslist posting for a chef position at Mezé, which he said has been his most challenging job so far.

“It’s a very small kitchen and the production is challenging,” Lopez said. “I’m trying to find the best way that I can make it happen.”

Aside from the small kitchen, Lopez said that the hardest part of the job is training other chefs, who specialize in specific cuisine rather than international. Though there are some struggles, customers responded positively to the food on opening night, barely letting the waiters outside of the kitchen before vying for the food trays.

“Everything about [Mezé] is artistic, warm and friendly,” said James Nastos, real estate manager for the Fulton Market Company.

Nastos said he enjoyed the drinks, atmosphere and art, which hangs on every wall in the lounge. He said it is a great place for young adults to network.

“The ability to meet interesting people, the food will speak for itself, a humongous variety of cocktails and great company,” Nastos said. “It will attract the sophisticated, younger person.”

For more information about Mezé Tapas Lounge including pricing, a full menu and a drink list, as well as some upcoming special events that will be hosted there, visit