Niko's Tavern brings a familiar restaurant name to Elgin's west side
A familiar name in West suburban restaurants has arrived in Elgin.
Niko's Tavern opened this week in the location formerly occupied by TJ's Bar and Grill at 3145 Route 20, a couple of miles west of Randall Road.
The 140-seat restaurant is owned by the Kanakaris family, which has six other Niko's eateries, including in Pingree Grove, Woodstock, Belvidere, Union and Marengo.
"We like to stay away from the big boys," Niko Kanakaris said. And while Elgin is a bigger city than the others they call home, Kanakaris said the far west side location is "like its own small town."
The new spot's style is similar to their other restaurants with rustic decor and barn wood throughout. Multiple televisions adorn each wall, and a long bar stocks an extensive liquor and beer selection, including 18 choices of beer on tap.
A separate area off to the side of the dining room features five video gambling machines. There's also outdoor dining, which is tented for the winter.
The menu features a variety of appetizers, salads, wraps, burgers, sandwiches and entrees. Menu favorites include the Tator Tot Nachos appetizer, the Mac Attack Burger, a 10-ounce burger topped with mac 'n' cheese and bacon, or the Very Berry Salad for something lighter.
Kanakaris said they'll be doing a fish fry special Fridays and a prime rib offering Saturdays. Both nights will also feature free valet service.
The family leased the location in December of last year, but difficulty in bringing in new equipment and hiring enough staff members delayed them from opening sooner.
Kanakaris said they completely redid the kitchen and dining room, with only the footprint of the former restaurant remaining mostly intact. The bleachers that used to take up one wall of the restaurant found a new home at Goebbert's pumpkin patch for folks watching the pig races.
The Kanakaris family opened their first restaurant in 1988 when Niko's dad, George, opened Papa G's, which grew to multiple locations before he sold them. Niko's mom and dad still work in the restaurants, along with his wife and two sisters.
He said his three boys, ages 10, 11 and 13, bus tables on weekends. He hopes one day they'll take over the family businesses.
"But they've got to go to college first," he said.