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Category: Greek Page 1 of 2

Nammos Estiatorio

We were on Fraser looking for a suitable happy hour pitstop. Their sandwich board outside had us pausing with $3 high balls, $4 tap beers, and either house red or white at $5. And we quickly found ourselves walking into “Nammos Estiatorio” to take advantage.

The open space was divided by upholstered booths. A pretty simple setting with black framed photos, painted portraits, and Grecian artifacts. We grabbed a booth by the door and quickly ordered before the hour would no longer be so “happy”.

We enjoyed two glasses of wine along with two appetizers to share.

$10 for a regular serving of “kalamari”. But here the crispy battered and fried squid pieces were served with a beet dip instead of the typical tzatziki cream. We were skeptical of the pairing, but quick to try and then go back for second dips. It was chunky and easy to spread, offering the heavy fry a nice refreshing tang.

For $6 we also had the “zucchini chips”. Although it was a vegetable, we found ourselves now with a little too much deep fry and oil in our dishes, and nothing light to cleanse the palette with in between. The chips were crisp, a little plain as is, but well coupled with the tzatziki, that made its appearance here.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
Based on the quality of the little taste here, I would definitely like to come back to the restaurant to try a full meal. So for now, it all seems positive. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

NAMMOS ESTIATORIO
3980 Fraser Street, Vancouver BC, V5V 4E4
604-428-6850
nammos.ca
Nammos Estiatorio Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Happy Hour at The Greek by Anatoli

Today I would be the plus one to Jacquline of “Pork Ninjas”, Instagram and blog fame. We were at “The Greek by Anatoli”, attending a media event, highlighting their new happy hour menu. This would be a new feature that the restaurant would host daily from 2-5pm. And today we would get a sneak peak of things to come.

As a disclaimer, when it comes to a media tasting: plating and portion size may be gussied up and/or paired down, and the service will usually be top notch. Though I can at least paint you the most accurate image when it comes to the food and the setting, as how I interpret it. But as always, these are my opinions and you need not take them as fact. Unless you have my exact background, have lived my exact experiences, and we possess the same tongue; no one can truly taste and appreciate as you do.

The restaurant was closed for the event and we, along with a group of others were able to enjoy the space fully. I have visited “The Greek” before and then was unable to immerse myself in their wonderful seating area. They had tables available on the patio and upper deck, but it was the ones at the very back of the restaurant, surrounding by black and white photos and under strung up lights, that was the place to be. Today I would get to be surrounded by it all, across from their island bar.

Alexi the owner of “The Greek”, showed us warming hospitality, and shared tidbits of the restaurant and himself during our stay. He greeted us all and gave us some background information on his restaurant, speaking with passion for his business, which is always a good attribute to have as a business owner.

The back wall was plastered over with a black and white mural of old Greece. The wall to the right was hung with actual family photos. They offered a glimpse into his childhood and his heritage. His family’s first restaurant opened its doors in 1984, this venture in Yaletown was his alone, and the second to have the name. They are also working on acquiring a three location in the near future.

As the sun peaked out, the patio with its picnic tables were offered as a viable space for us to dine in. However I was too enamoured by the ambiance we had indoors. The strung together lights and the hanging bulbs bathed the room in a golden luminescent glow. It offers a great vibe for a romantic dinner or a girls night out, helped along by a playlist of smooth vocals and up beats.

The food was described as being simple and clean, strong flavours like how grandmother does it. All within a more upbeat spot. They successfully combined traditional food with modern aesthetics.

The happy hour menu is an assembly of popular Greek appetizers, smaller servings perfect for sharing, so you can order them all and try a little bit of each. All the food is $6 per plate normally, but between March 27 to the 31st what is listed will only be $2 a plate. Our servings below may be a little different than what you would typically get. I have tried my best to ask questions and list those differences here, so that when you come and try them for yourself you know what you will be getting, and won’t be disappointed if it differs from what you see here. And at $2 a plate, I know you will make ever effort to come by during that week. You can’t even buy a loaf of bread for $2.

When asked about the decision to host happy hour, Alexis was honest. He acknowledge that he would not be making a profit during this time slot, but for him it was about bringing people in, and having them stay in the area after work. Where you see a lot of that in downtown, you don’t have the same gusto for happy hour in Yaletown. So this was his rally cry, his attempt to fill seats and gather the community.

We started with “Keftedes”, traditional pan fried meatballs served in a tomato sauce. Although I would classify the sauce as more of the juice to a tomato salsa. Watery, but a great accompaniment of chunks and liquid, to the hearty and thoroughly seasoned meatballs. Which were tasty, but did border on being a little too salty for my tastes.

I am not a fan of Dolmathes in general. “Dolmathes” are grape vine leaves stuffed with beef and rice, and these are cooked in avgolemeno broth. I don’t like the texture of the wilted and soggy leaves, even though they were prepared very tender here. Their pickled flavour isn’t appealing to me either. But the filling was nice. The beef was prepared like the meatball above, having a similar flavour, and show of the same quality.

I much preferred the “Spanakopita”, although like above, it’s wilted greens are a turn off to me visually and textural. I just don’t like way wilted and cooked greens feel on my tongue. But if I had to eat a serving of it, this would be the batch to force myself through. Fresh spinach, feta and herbs, wrapped in filo and baked. It was baked crispy and stuffed full. I really liked the flavour of the sharp cheese. So tasty, that it didn’t really need the tzaziki sauce that came with it on the size. When you order it, you will normally get two pies, just like the other two portion sizes above.

The “Calamari” was your standard battered and fried pieces of squid. It was your classic flavour served crispy with tzatziki for tang.

The “True Greek pork” souvlaki was the most memorable. Its name is due in part of the fact that pork is the true meat of Greece and traditional souvlaki is only prepared using pork. Here cubes of meat are skewered and grilled for a blackened char, then served kalamaki style on a pita with tzatziki on the side. Once again, when ordering this, you will only get enough for two tastes. The meat was a little tough, but well seasoned, it paired perfectly with the fluffy pita and the dill in the tzatziki. Definitely a good deal considering it’s $11 normally and here it is either $6, or $2 for that week.

During happy hour and their launch week the “Homous” with chickpeas, tahini, garlic, lemon juice, and parsley is set at $4. It is served with with a warm buttery pita for dipping into. This was my favourite dish. The homous was really delicious. A little chunky, and a lot delicious. It wasn’t so aggressive that it masked the taste of the butter on the pita. I think I ate two whole pita and certainly licked cleaned the homous dish.

And happy hour isn’t the same without drinks, so their menu also includes two $4 drink options and $6 glasses of red or white.

However, today we were able to try a few of their regular cocktails. Like the classic brunch ceasar with a grilled shrimp and pickled bean. The shrimp had a great grill, but the drink itself could have used more spices and a whole lot more tomato.

The juicy watermelon mojito as a visual delight with an actual watermelon slice for garnish. It was very mint forward with the refreshing quality of real watermelon juice.

Not on the happy hour menu, but offered regularly, we were treated to the most beautiful serving of salad that I have ever had. “Greek salad” with fresh tomatoes, cucumber, peppers, red onions, goat feta from Greece, capers, and olives. All the ingredients were chopped small and sliced thin for a more reasonable bites. It easily allowed you to get a little bit of everything on your fork. Including the addition of fried kale chips and micro greens, for an even greater aesthetic touch. Though be warned, this was done special for us, and not typically seen when you order it for yourself.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
I have said it after my first visit and I will say it again after this one. I like the place for dressier style Greek food in an equally dressed up setting. And now with happy hour specials, there is another reason to visit. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

THE GREEK
1043 Mainland Street, Vancouver BC, V6B 5P9
604-979-0700
thegreekbyanatoli.com
The Greek by Anatoli Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The Greek by Anatoli

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This is one of those restaurants you want to walk in hungry for. You can smell the grilling of fragrant spices as soon as you approach the threshold. This scent was a promise of delicious meal to come, and they delivered.

We put in the effort, made a reservation early on, but were given probably the worst table in the house. It was close to the open door entrance, a step up on a platform, overlooking the rest of the restaurant. The half we were forced to stare longingly at was definitely the more appealing of the two sides. Set under parallel lines of light bulbs, against a painted white brick wall, decorated with black and white framed photography, with overlooking shelves dedicated to large bottles of grey goose. And here we were on our cramped two top, in the awkward middle of the terrace with all other tables sandwiching us; lusting to be near the back wall with its panorama of a Greek cityscape. When I asked to be seated there, on the empty tables instead, I was told that they were for those with reservations, we had a reservation.

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We disliked our given seat enough to brave the colder weather, grabbing a seat outside on their covered patio instead. Though with heat lamps and woollen blankets we were kept plenty warm. It was all share style tables, with couples claiming the ends of each for more intimacy. We were one such.

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I started with the “Aphrodite signature cocktail”. I thought it most fitting for this Greek restaurant, in name and with its assembly of ingredients. Sour cherry, white rum, a dash of Greek yogurt, honey, and cinnamon. I could smell the warmth of cinnamon as it was placed before me, and taste the tart tang of the yogurt upon my first sip. I found this unique concoction another new one to add to my collection of flavour combinations, whereas my guest likened it to medicine. Although, based on the bubble gum colouring, I did expect it to be a sweeter drink. But it was more like the yogurt beverage, calpis. Once again, one to try, but not really complimentary to anything we ate below.

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My guest had the “Kreatopita” during her last visit and wanted me to try it today. It was a uniquely shaped meat filled pie. A coil of pastry surrounding minced meat and saganaki cheese. It is baked to a crisp and then topped with sesame seeds. You eat it by pulling segments off, one part at a time. The filling had the texture of a crumbly sausage, it matched well with the flaky pastry, but together it was quite rich. The pool of watered down tzaziki was most helpful in breaking up the one tone taste, as well as adding some freshness. But at the end of the day, this was a heavy start, and a dish better left as a side to a entree.

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The “Octopotothi” was nice, but like its co-appetizer it was on the heavier. This was grilled octopus seasoned with olive oil and a lemon caper dressing. I wished the chunks were cut down to a more manageable bite. They were too chewy for my liking, and lacked any flavour besides salt. The side of crispy potatoes, red peppers, and whole olives helped in the flavour department. But the menu mentioned that it would also be served with pita, however none never came. The pita would have been most helpful as a base to dull some of the saltiness.

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The country lamb is a feast for two, despite its intended serving of one. It was came with the feeling of home cooking, served in its handsome metal tray. But it was the lemon wrapped in a semi permeable cloth that stole the show for me. It make the dish more elegant, dressing it up. The lamb shoulder was described as being “braised until it melted off the bone”, and that it did. It flaked off and had a good amount of tenderizing fat. It was best taken with spoonfuls of the flavourful rice that sat beneath it, and tender roasted vegetables that surrounded it. Broccoli florets, carrots, potato wedges, onion, turnip chunks, cherry tomatoes, corn on the cob. Everything was fully seasoned, with plenty of herbs in the rub of the meat and mixed in with everything else.

And best of all, there was plenty leftovers for another meal and a half. I just didn’t like how they decided to pack what we couldn’t finish up. They put the meat pie and lamb together in one box. And sadly, the former was made soggy by the latter.

Our meal ended with a liquorice mint, and an apology from our server when we asked for our bill to be split. She was just as polite throughout our whole meal. She read our cues on when to check in and when to not engage. And made sure that my glass was never left empty. She made our spacious patio seats the most inviting in the house.

The washrooms were located in the hallway of the space that the restaurant shared. You got in with a four digit lock code. The number was pasted on the door leading out of the restaurant.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
The food, ambience, and service were all on point. One of the places I will recommend for a date night, craving Greek. There is much more on the menu that I wanted to try, so will need to return a few more times in order to do so. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

THE GREEK
1043 Mainland Street, Vancouver BC, V6B 5P9
604-979-0700
thegreekbyanatoli.com

Cristos Taverna

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My partner and I came here for dinner forgetting we have been here before, and that we had declared we wouldn’t be back. We have just eaten at so many different places and I have just written about so much, that I end up repeating the ones that are less memorable. This was the case today. Although we walked in to over hear that they are now under new owners, and we would later find out this came with new menu pricing and different quality of food. So in this post, I was able to reference my older entry and make an accurate comparison.

I wrote last time that the prices were on the steep side and it was still the case today, if not more. The prices were higher when comparing it to other Greek tavernas in Burnaby. Appetizers started at $10 and went to $15. A bowl of cheese, olives, and artichokes was priced at $10, where at other places $5 would suffice. All entrees started at $20, climbing to $28. Previously I had the souvlaki for $17.95 (according to my own post from year ago) and today it was now $20. I ordered it any how, wanting to have the same thing to be able to compare the two visit. Hopefully it wouldn’t be as bland and as overcooked as it was first time I had it. I kept it positive with the thoughts of a new owner and a possible new chef? New standards and better preparation? At least the customers coming in and leaving happy had me believing this.

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Despite all the changes on the menu, the decor was as I remembered it. The building was white with blue accents to speak to the Greek heritage. On the side of the building, blue shutters with a blue and white striped awning, strung with Christmas lights, set over over painted blue flower boxes.

The restaurant is structured like a house with a deck and front door that opens up into a foyer. Just beyond is a set of a steps leading to their second level. An elevated platform and a banister splits two sections apart. They separated couples and families between the two floors. It was a smart idea to keep the desired ambience flowing.

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To get to our seats on the main floor we walked through a pointed archway. We were given a table, next to a dusty ledge. The darkness of the room made it more tolerate-able. On this ledge were shot glasses, jars of sand, and tiny baskets of shells. It played off the colourful starfish mobile that hung off the bamboo fencing woven with fake vines. This scene spoke to the rest of their “more is more” decor. No space would be left undecorated. Two areas with plenty of souvenirs and knick knacks to keep your neck moving and your eyes roving. There were the usual Greek artifacts: decorative urns, commemorative plates, a brass helmet with red plume, and table top sized Greek statue and architectural replicas. Across a white stucco walls were photos of landscapes depicting white buildings in front of blue skies and bluer waters. There were fake plants hanging in wire baskets from the ceiling, a few set of moose antlers on display, and a bubbling fountain with smoke in the corner. Out of it all, I remembered the bottles of grey goose above the bar filled with florescent blue liquid. And the figurines beside them dressed in traditional Greek costume. It all matched the traditional Greek music playing overhead. The clutter helped with the theme and gave the restaurant some theatrics.

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The owner played host and sat all patrons coming in. Leaving the one lone server to move about the room tending to everyone himself. He seemed swamped working the six sat tables at once. He had help in the young man bussing after him, but was left to communicate with everyone himself. He would check in on us, asking how we were, but would cut us off if we began telling him of our needs. He made these connections to assure tables he remembered them and would be back to help. When I finally got his attention I was able to tell him about the hair I found on my plate. A single strand imbedded into my lumpy tzatziki sauce. When brought to his attention, he didn’t flinch or seem to care. He said nothing, but would later came back with the bill, giving us 20% off the total cost for our troubles. At this point I had eaten my way to full. I was apprehensive about doggy bagging the rest of my unfinished food, but did so hoping the hair was isolated to just the tzatziki. The food was that good.

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Once again I got the same “beef souvlaki” entree as I did during our first visit. I want to be able to compare it then to now with the $2 price increase. The pieces of beef were inconsistent, some were over cooked, and others came with a pink centre. When it was good, it was tender. When it was not so good, it was dry and chalky.

Their souvlaki came in chicken, lamb, or beef. It, like all the other entrees comes with rice pilaf, roasted lemon potatoes, Greek salad, tzatziki, and pita. All pretty standard in Greek dining. The rice was seasoned well. It had plenty of flavour as is, and need not be treated as just a side. Similarly, the potatoes were tender and herby. Besides the hair, the tzatziki was a little chalky. Not creamy for dipping with the pita or potato as I expected.

When our meal was served we were only given one pita to share between us. I asked for whom it belong to and who’s plate came without a round of oiled and toasted pita bread. Our server stated that if we wanted another we could have it, and that they only give out one as most people don’t eat the pita to its entirety. If that was the case, I would have rather a conversation instead of an assumption on their end. As a diner, I want to get want I was promised, and what I believe I would be paying for. One less pita isn’t much on the long run, but the cost of our meal as charged is based on what you get, one less pita and the cost of it wouldn’t be deducted from the price you paid. The conversation should have been our server giving us the option of a second pita and we as diners, given the choice to turn it down and not have to pay for it. Or better yet, have the menu advertise adding a pita bread to any entree for $1 more. Needless to say we felt obligated to finish both pitas to the last crumb.

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My partner varied from his bland chicken souvlaki of last time and went for the “Arni psito”. It came recommend when he was reading up on the restaurant online. This was meaty lamb shoulder cooked over many hours in an herb sauce. It too came with the same sides as above. The lamb was extremely tender and full of flavour. There was lots of meat and gristle, but it wasn’t necessarily worth $24. We have had similar, if not better lamb, with more of everything at $6 less. $6 better spent on appetizers.

 

Would I come back? – No.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – No.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
My final assessment of this restaurant remains the same. It isn’t my first pick for Greek, nor is there much to set it aside from all the others Greek restaurants that serve similar food. The service was standard, the food decent, but the pricing remains on the steeper side. I did not felt I got more for more. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

CRISTOS
4624 East Hastings Street, Burnaby BC, V5C 2K5
604-299-0008
cristos.ca
Cristos Greek Taverna Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Socrates Greek Taverna

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My partner is a hard one to feed, and my family is quite set in their ways. So coming together for Christmas and finding the best restaurant to do so in was a challenge. What would be open Boxing Day? My partner doesn’t take seafood or like Chinese food with its foreign flavours and unusual ingredients all that much. And my parents hardly ventures out of Chinese or Asian cuisine when dining out. So what could we find that was good for my partner’s particular palette and had value for my parent’s wallets (they were treating us, so were paying). They cringed at the thought of a casual chain like cactus club. In the end, what both groups could come together on was Greek food. So my partner choose his favourite one.

I have written about this restaurant when we have dined in and once again when we have taken out. We always end up ordering the same thing because it’s that good. So tonight I was excited to be able to document something different that their menu offered, as my family would order different dishes, ones we’ve never had and would never have. My partner and I typically order delivery from this place, and hardly make the trip down for dinner. One the portions are larger if you take out, two comfort food is best taken in the comfort of your own house, and three the setting isn’t all that great. Normally you eat out for the ambiance, the energy of the room. Here it is never that busy inside or on the streets, this was Burnaby after all.

From out on the sidewalk, the restaurant doesn’t look all that impressive; but stepping in when the space opens up, there is more to talk about. The room was spacious, with separate seating areas divided by mid-height barriers. A few columns, a couple of archways, some scenic paintings, and strategically placed urns; where the hallmarks of a Greek restaurant. It was just missing the rampant greenery creeping from the ceiling, spilling on to the floors.

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Out of everything I enjoyed the feature on the left wall the most. It was a 3D piece built to look like a Rocky Mountain scape. Painted peaks overlooking rolling hills, speckled with long grass and spiny pines. Then in the foreground, paper mâché rocks that jutted out in points. Their location didn’t have a natural view, so they made one indoors.

This was Boxing Day Saturday and they weren’t very busy, although having stopped by once or twice before, I have never really seen them busy. Tonight was the same with plenty of tables left un-sat. However each one was set and ready: neat with pressed white table cloths and a full array of side plates, cutlery, and glassware.

From what I can remember, they had a new menus. A laminated sheet in blue and white stripes. A list of Greek appetizers and mains, and others including pizza, pasta, and steak.

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We started with the “Spanakopita appetizer”. I don’t like spinach unless it’s folded in puff pastry and mashed into a paste with feta cheese like this. “Spanakopita” or spinach pie is a Greek savoury pastry. It is filled with chopped spinach, feta cheese, onions, egg, and seasonings. Something I had to google as the menu wasn’t very descriptive, and expected you to already know of these Greek dishes. The crispy dough on the appetizer was the best part, it flaked off with a slight push of my fork. Usually spinach is fibrous, however with all the cream mashed in with the spinach leaves, this was tolerable and creamy. Though I could have done without the larger chunks of onions hidden, as they over powered with their raw texture and bold taste. Overall, this spinach pastry was better than the other versions I have had, not that I find myself ordering it regularly.

All the Greek mains are served with seasoned rice, roasted potato, Greek salad, tzatziki, and pita bread; an almost expected assembly at any Greek taverna. The yellow rice was fluffy, prepared with tender carrot chunks. The potatoes were equally tender, they melted under the pressure of your fork. I liked them with a little of the tangy tzatziki, but my folks found them too salty. I found the cucumber, tomato, green pepper, and red onion salad pretty average. My mother on the other hand felt her’s had too much raw onion, was coated in too much olive oil, and the one whole olive was too much to take in, in one bite. And all the pitas for all our entree portions came together in a basket for us to share. They were cut thinly like breadsticks and burnt to a crisp at each of the edges. We didn’t eat enough of it to complain. As for the actual main, each plate centred around your chosen item. They weren’t pretty, but all together with all sides they were at least filling.

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I had the “Mixed souvlaki” platter which included a skewer with cubes of chicken, beef, and lamb; prepared on a grill. The seasonings for all three were similar, each ending on a nice char. The beef chunks were thick and tough. They were over cooked on the outside yet still pink in the centre. The chicken had some good colouring and herby flavour to it, but was overcooked and dry. The lamb was the best one, it covered it all. Tender meat with a well seasoned crust, that didn’t hide any of the lamb’s natural flavouring.

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My mom’s favourite is calamari, and their “Deep fried Calamari” didn’t disappoint. Cut up in to larger pieces, each evenly battered ring had a nice tender chewiness to it. Great alone and even better with a dunk into tzatziki.

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My dad when light with the “baked salmon” meal. He liked the fish alright, but found it slightly overcooked, though did preferred it that way than being undercooked. The salmon was buttery, flavoured with a squeeze tart lemon.

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Both my brother and my partner had the “Roast lamb” entree. It was a hulking slab of slow roasted lamb shoulder. The yellow stained fat was a little off putting, but luckily we were kept in the dark of the dimly lit room and couldn’t focus on it all that much. I personally enjoy eating in a well lit room, that way you enjoy the beauty of the plate and its colours as you work your way through it. The lamb was as succulent and as tender as you expected it. It fell of the bone in chunks and was seasoned heavily in garlic.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
Greek food is good, but I only eat it when I know I can brush my teeth soon after. There is no escaping the lingering scent of garlic on your breath after such a satisfying meal. The food is always good here, it had always been consistent from visit to visit. I would definitely be back again for more, but prefer to take out than dine in. The delivery servings are larger and the setting, although charming, isn’t worth the drive out for. Don’t deny your cravings with delivery.

 

SOCRATES
6633 East Hastings St, Burnaby BC
604-299-3777
Socrates Greek Taverna Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Neighbour’s Restaurant & Pizza House

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A few days before payday and you find that your dining choices are much more curated. What’s good and works with my $20 a meal budget? With their Monday to Wednesday specials, “Neighbours”, the neighbourhood joint was a fine pick.

When I know a restaurant is family owned and operated my expectations for it are a little different. I shift from a focus on food to one more on vibe. How comfortable and how well taken care of I am, is almost more important than what I am being served. To be labeled as home style encompasses the community and the unity of family. I want to feel that coming in. I want to be welcomed, to know that my stopping in at random is appreciated; and if I have a reservation, that they have been expecting me and are excited to usher me in. Such expectations I trade, in exchange of accepting a regular meal at a fair price. A lot to ask for from this long standing mom and pop kitchen, but they delivered.

The shop stood still when we entered. Smiles shone and we were immediately directed to a table by the owner himself. I mean they must know what they are doing to be doing this for over 30 years. Three generations of restauranteurs learning how “mama does it”.

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The setting was homey with framed photographs on the walls. Smiling faces posed behind glass, black and white snaps of the kitchen’s daily operations, a commemorative piece celebrating their establishment since 1982, and a cork board of photos capturing loyal customers and fans celebrating the restaurant’s, then 25 years in business.

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In another direction, a panoramic sea scape gathered the room around it. It took you in with its blue waters littered with sail boats, and it’s green bluffs overlooking several red roof homes. I imagined this to be a tranquil landscape in Italy, to match with the restaurant’s heritage.

Each table was dressed with a plastic patterned table cloths and partnered with worn wooden chairs. I wasn’t a fan of the cloth professionally, but it was familiar sight. In my mother’s kitchen, on her dining room table is such a cloth. It too is tacky and sticky to the touch.

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Fake greenery hung from baskets, suspended from the ceiling. And painted chalk boards advertised their daily specials. Like “Souvalaki Tuesday’s” where chicken or beef Souvalaki is $10.95, and it includes all the familiars of a Greek entree. Rice pilaf, Greek salad, pita bread, and tzatziki. Or “Wings Wednesday’s” offering up beer and wing deals in a combo, or 45 cents per wing, with a minimum order of ten.

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When I was researching them online, there was no mention of their appearance on “You Gotta Eat Here!” A Canadian food themed show, where host John Catucci travels across Canada on a journey to find the country’s best comfort foods. But it was heavily advertised in house, a visual reminder of their 15 minutes of fame, on every menu and by the front entrance. Their appearance on the show was one they enjoyed and were so grateful for, that the nod to the show came with a thank you note as well.

Here they serve Italian-Greek style comfort food. Why decide on either cuisine when both are so much better, together? I find both Italian and Greek, with their heavy seasonings and carbohydrate loaded offerings very reassuring. They had everything for either cravings covered. Pizza, pasta, salads, and dips; even barbecue was on the menu. Everything you expect from a Greek restaurant was present: roasted lamb, spanakopita, Greek salad, calamari, and even baklava. And anything you would want from an Italian restaurant was also accounted for: chicken Parmesan, meat balls, bruschetta, stuffed pastas, baked lasagnas; and over 35 different pizza choices, including the ability to customize your own. And just to please everyone, they also offer classics like barbecue ribs and apple pie. It was all very homey. Their name certainly fit all this.

Though seeing as it was pasta Monday’s, where a hearty pasta dish was $8.95, we had to take advantage of that. Where as regularly, full pasta dishes go for $14-17.

Especially as the deal was dine in only. You choose your favourite type of pasta and sauce, and it comes with garlic bread. Apparently, their regular sized pastas can feed 2-3 people, so good thing their Monday specials is less food for less. Fettuccine, spaghetti, or penne regatta. Meat sauce, marinara, Alfredo, or rosa.

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My guest ordered the most familiar, “Spaghetti with meat sauce”. Although simple, it was very flavourful. Oh wasn’t your regular tomato based sauce, it has some extra spice to it, yet finished on a sweeter now. The perfectly cooked noodles absorbed the rich flavours well. Interestingly the sauce and the noodles so congeal as it time passes and the pasta begins to cool down. Towards the end it was like eating a whole different plate of pasta texturally. I preferred it fresh.

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Seeing as the pasta deal was dine in only and my guest wanted to take some home for the low price of $8.95. We ordered another portion to go. It was exactly what she had and was still working on. Context: she is a very petite Asian female, so her ordering this much food is sure to raise some eyebrows. Yet our server happily complied with her request. To my guest’s point, she did take a bite when the new plate hit our table.

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Their daily classic special was 6oz New York steak for $15.95, which includes garlic butter mushrooms, spaghetti with meat sauce, garlic bread and a tossed salad. All this food sounded like a good deal I had to take advantage of. Though, sadly the steak was served a little dry, even through I had asked for medium rare. It looked right with the perfect pink middle, but the chewing was tough and the meat was grainy. It was more medium than the medium rare I had wanted. I guess here is an example of you get what you pay for. I thoroughly appreciated the sides that helped to break up the taste. I even ate the orange slice, even though it was covered in meat juices.

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The side salad was actually served first. I was given the option of Italian, ranch, or thousand island dressing, I choose the former. The salad was cold and on an empty stomach I rather have my first bite be a warm one. I think it was a pre-bag salad mix with the addition of celery and large tomato chunks. Over all, nothing special.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – No.
The food may not be the best, or any where near gourment, but the value makes up for that. Decent portions at a fair price. I likened my experience to eating at home with the same comforts, but without having to clean up after ourselves. But to be picky, i feel the staff aren’t as attentive because of the lack of family members/help, but they do their best. I mean, after seating us, the owner came back to check in on us throughout or meal. There was definitely care here. I will go back, but am in no rush to. It was good, but nothing to have you craving for more. I tried Italian today, so maybe Greek another day. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

NEIGHBOURS
6493 Victoria Drive, Vancouver BC, V5P 3X5
604-327-1456
neighboursrestaurant.ca
Click to add a blog post for Neighbour's Restaurant & Pizza House on Zomato

Kefi Greek Kouzina

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We have been here once before, and on that first occasion, our visit was less than pleasant. On that day, nearly a year ago, the hostesses didn’t make us feel welcomed and the chefs and servers kept us waiting over an hour for our food. Time we spent waiting meant we were late for the movie we were planning to watch afterwards. However today we recalled the food as being pretty memorable, so were willing to gamble on a second visit. A gamble indeed as this drop in was without reservations, as a last minute Saturday night plan.

The restaurant is located in Schoolhouse Square, an outdoor shopping plaza with a large lot, adjacent to the Coquitlam Cinaplex. We drove to the far left corner for “Kefi”, with plenty of parking around. The restaurant stands out with its name in neon blue lights. The equally large sign to its left advertised $8 lunch specials. It had me wishing we had come seven hours earlier to take advantage of such a deal. Despite the lack of blue and white stripes and lush greenery, with its white painted columns against its rust stucco exterior the architecture certainly looked Greek to me.

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Coming in on a Saturday night we were pretty skeptical of being seated right away. Especially seeing as this wasn’t our first choice for that very reason. We asked the hostess if it was busy and she confirmed that it was, but sheepishly admitted to having room for us. The restaurant was dressed moderately festive with sparse garlands and dimly lit wreaths to reflect the holiday. But even with all the multitude of bulbs and twinkling glitter, the room maintained it dark and romantic ambience. This did well to illuminate their featured ceiling panels. Lean back and look up at back lit images of Grecian urns. Photos and pictures of historical works of art: pots with handles and vases shaped like trophies; and beige on black carvings showing everyday life in Greece through two dimensional sketches.

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Other than that there wasn’t much in terms of decor. The bar sat at the back with tall stools and flat screen televisions. The dining room before it, divided into two sections at varying heights. A platformed step up and a wooden bannister created the illusion of more room than there necessarily was in this little restaurant. Rust coloured walls, small framed posters, blue LED lights trimming the ceiling, and wooden floors that matched the wooden tables and chairs. Simple and homey. The type of restaurant ideal for a casual gathering, the type of place where no one would judge if you came dressed in sweat pants or a track suit (true story). Though the attractive female servers in their form fitting black dresses and glossy long hair certainly picked up fanciness of the place.

The menu was listed with titles in their traditional Greek names and their descriptions in English. Each plate was classified as either starters, salads, soups, comfortable food, grilled and fried, and accompaniments. As is the case when we have Greek, my partner choose the chicken souvlaki and I the roasted lamb. When I think Greek I think fall of the bone meat, savory rice, and soft roasted potatoes; and that’s just what we had.

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Our dinner began with two portions of Greek salad served as a shared one. Pre-chopped cubes of cucumber, tomato, green peppers, red onion, and a black olive each. It is prepared ahead of time, left to chill, and served as needed. The heirloom tomatoes could have been allowed to ripen more and I would have preferred the batch at room temperature instead of a teeth aching cold. But at least the salad was generously drizzled with olive oil and heavily dusted with herbs, and abundantly sprinkled with feta. Overall pretty standard, a side of fresh vegetables to balanced the savouriness of the carbohydrate loaded rice, pita, and potatoes to come.

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A mistaken word on our end had the server bringing me the lamb chops instead of the roasted rack of lamb. I was not disappointed. Had I gotten my usual I would have missed out on the “Rack of lamb paidakia”. New Zealand rack of lamb chops grilled with garlic, lemon, and oregano. Served with patates, spanakoritzo, and tzatziki. This was one of the nicest plates I have had presented at a Greek restaurant. Plating was certainly considered when stacking each chop, one after another. The lamb was grilled with a crusted rub that gave the meat a bit of a crunch. Eaten like lollipops the lamb was a little tough to tear into, but overall well prepared and packed full of salty flavour. A strong flavour that competed with the seasoned rice and roasted potatoes. So much flavour that I wished I saved some of the starting salad to eat between these bites.

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“Chicken souvlaki”. Skewered fresh chicken breast grilled with garlic, lemon, and oregano. Like the lamb this too was served with a side of patates, spanakoritzo, and tzatziki. Thick chunks of white chicken breast, grilled tender and served as one of the longest skewers of meat I have ever had. The charred flavour was as prominent as the seared grill marks on the chicken. Though as meaty as each bite was, it could have been more juicy and dialled down in its overwhelming lemon flavour. Luckily the lemon’s sour tang played well with the zesty rice and herbaceous whole potato. They did well to balance each other out.

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Each of our entrees came with a pita, served in a wire rack, slightly buttered and warmly toasted. A standard part of a Greek entree, best taken with the creamy and tangy tzatziki dip on the side. There was much effort put into creating flavours, even this pita was heavily seasoned. Something not necessarily good, as this was soon identified as our only palate cleanser of the meal.

The washrooms were ironically labelled for “gods” and “goddess”. Though it couldn’t be further from a space befitting a mystical deity. A continuous loud buzzing from harsh florescent lights. Stall doors so low that when standing you can see straight to your reflection on the mirror before you. And a reusable hand towel machine that requires a turn of a knob, and the allowing of sopping wet fabric to dry and be used by multiple sets of hands before being cleaned. The facilities were clearly outdated, there were lots that revealed the age of the place. A friend in the food industry once told me, a restaurant’s washroom often reflects its kitchen.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – No.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – No.
The setting was nothing memorable, a descent spot for a casual dinner. Not my first choice to celebrate an occasion at or spend a fancy dinner within. Though half the room seated for work functions, romantic dinners, and group birthday parties would disagree with me. Despite all the staff scheduled each one did little more than taking your order and bringing you your plates. As before we didn’t get friendly the welcoming service, often typical from family run Greek establishments. We were not made to feel as if our business was appreciated or even needed, just another table on a moderately busy Saturday night. Our food was good, as mentioned there was clear effort put into coaxing the most flavour out of everything. Though as a result all the spices and all the pungent garlic ended up fighting for supremacy in your mouth. There was not enough freshness to balance any of it out, no dedicated palate cleanser. Served as the appetizer, the salad was long gone, and the pita taken with tzatziki was no slouch in flavour as well. Each element was good on its own, but as a whole it doesn’t always compliment one another. Though at the end of the meal it is still better than any bland dish in need of self salting. Plated with design and purpose in mind, servings are not as large as at other Greek restaurants, but both run at similar prices for similar dishes. The menu spoke of how everything was made from scratch, even the broths and sauces and they make their own desserts. They even go as far as to butcher their own meat, ensuring nothing is prepackaged or processed. So I could see the higher cost on average as money being well spent. Even then the prices were still reasonable. Don’t deny your cravings.

KEFI
102-100 Schoolhouse Street, Coquitlam BC, V3K6V9
604-529-1776
kefi.ca
Kefi Greek Kouzina on Urbanspoon

Gino’s

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Looking for a quick dinner in New Westminster we came to Gino’s on an recommendation when in the area. Sunday night proved to be slow. The streets were empty and the restaurant only sat three tables, majority of which were outside on the covered patio out front. We were table number four.

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Not much to describe. The restaurant proudly displayed its age, established in 1972 and the wear of the room echoed that truth. Though nothing their fresh coats of paints and well maintain seats couldn’t have you over looking. Inside, black tables and brown booths lined the hardwood floor. On the white walls separated by brown trim hug black and white photographs and pictures painted in colour.

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We went in and approached the hostess booth upfront only to request for a seat outdoors. The patio was separated from the side walk by a wall at mid height. It allowed you to be seen and to see, pedestrians strolling by on their evening walks. The roof shielded you from the elements and the heat lamps would keep you warm should you need it. The brick fireplace towards the back was more for show, its mouth filled with greenery, as other plant life sat on its mantle and made their home all around. Similarly was the television perched above. Switched on but left unfollowed with a portion of its led screen left stained or damage.

Each white table was set modestly with an unlit tea light in a cylindrical votive and a caddy of salt and pepper packets. Right when you opened the menu a coloured invitation to celebrate your party at Gino’s popped up. It suggested they were the place to go to from birthdays of all ages to retirements and goodbyes; even the destination for graduations and christenings. Though their daily food and drink specials available all days of the week hoped to bring you in sooner. Highlighted on the menu and flagged on the awning as its own banner. They were definitely giving you multiple reasons to come back. Pasta Tuesdays had all their pasta dishes for $7.75 and Thursday Greek nights gave you a choice of any entree for $10.95, regularly $15.95-16.95.

Though despite all their tempting, tonight they were sadly out of the Sunday roast special. I would have been able to choose between roast beef, chicken, or lamb with all the trimmings. Considering the slower traffic I was surprised they were out by 8pm. Our waitress referred me to the roast lamb entree instead. Just as well, it is what I always get and what I wanted now.

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Our sides of garlic bread and pita came first. Served together in a bread basket with a shaker of chilli flakes and powdered Parmesan. I would have preferred it with our actual meal as apposed to before it. I wanted the pita with tzatziki and my guest wanted his garlic bread dipped into tomato sauce.

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The “roast lamb” was a shoulder cut marinated with Greek spices, and served with lemon oregano roast potatoes, rice, Greek salad, tzatziki and pita bread. By look and taste this was pretty standard. It has everything that I expected else where, with all the usual accompaniments. Mid way through I did notice the oil slick that sat at the bottom of my plate. The rice clumped saturated in grease and I tasted it. Overall it was good, but nothing had it standing out over its competitors. The portion was not even as large as those of other places. You got a nugget of a potato served whole, instead of two halves of a larger spud, despite the menu suggesting that you would get “potatoes”. The salad was not enough to be called a side portion though to my delight it was served room temperature and coated generally in feta. Though at $15.95 this was one of the least expensive priced lamb entrees. I guess you get less for paying $2 less.

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A large “baked lasagna” in a meat sauce. It wasn’t short on melted mozzarella cheese evident by the pool of grease that slicked its surface. Digging in this was more a bowl of noodles than that of layered pasta, it looked like a pizza after all. The lasagna was present, but it held nothing between its noodles, no spinach no ricotta, not even the meat. Despite the plethora of sauce the dish was bland, almost plain; it need more seasoning, some kick to it. I wasn’t even able to spot any herbs in the sea of red. Its watery texture had us scooping out any excess. Although this was just ground beef, pasta, mozzarella, and tomato sauce.

Would I come back? – No.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – No.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – No.
My experience and food wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great either. I wouldn’t make a trip out for generic Greek and bad Italian. Not so much a destination, but more there if you need it. Though for the community with no other restaurant like it around I could see its popularity, and possibly an explanation of its long standing success. Don’t deny your cravings.

GINO’S
431 E Columbia Street, New Westminster BC, V3L 3X4
604-525-1071
ginosrestaurant.ca
Gino's on Urbanspoon

Papa Greek

IMG_3229The speed and connivence of a food court stop, with the comfort of a quite sit down restaurant, all in an intimate space of a cafe. When in Maple Ridge your lunch options are limited. I refused to settle on a chain restaurant, and didn’t want to chance anything by choosing a random hole in the wall. Most time was spent trying to find a unique spot that didn’t look run down. Eventually our travel concluded at a small outdoor shopping complex. It was here that we settled on the newer and cleaner looking “Papa Greek”. It’s name was as creative as it’s menu.

The place was pin drop quiet with no music playing. The only other party left as we sat, as was the case after us. As we left a group of three came in. The place never had more than one of its 8 tables full, while we visited.

IMG_3230We didn’t expect much looking at the server, who was the only staff member in today. She was young and definitely only here for a paycheque. But we were already though the door and the photo menu looked good enough to try. The menu was fast food style, back lit, above the serving counter. With 18 familiar classics, they had all the would-be Greek cravings covered. Beef, chicken, lamb, and salmon souvlaki. And for the vegetarians there was a platter with veggie patties. If you want some variation, go for the chicken and beef gyro combos. And for those looking for non Greek options in a Greek restaurant (like my guest), choose from chicken fingers, Caesar salads, wraps, and lasagna. Each entree was severed with roasted potato, rice pilaff, Greek salad, and tzatziki sauce. For an additional charge you can add on a pita as well.

After ordering and paying. The lone employee slowly began assembling our lunches. We honestly thought that there was a guy in the back who was going to do all the cooking, so were immediately regretting the money we had handed over.

Making the lasagne involvedremoving a pre-prepared dish from the fridge, ladling tomato sauce over it, then shoving it into the oven. Everything else came from the covered metal trays in the front. We watched her assemble and cook. As we sat things were looking bad. I am sure she got the proper training to do her job and was has the skills to work this location herself. However based on what we were seeing, we weren’t holding our breaths for delicious plates. Though it did get better as the food was delivered with a smile, and it all came together hot and smelling as it should.

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Even at $10, this was a small portion. For one skewer, it was over priced. I have gotten more meat out of a fast food burger, at half the price. The beef was a little dry and a lot chewy, not surprising from a reheat job. The rice and potatoes were also reheated, but their heavily garlic-ed seasonings made them the headline of the dish. The Greek salad was ice cold and drenched in a pasty dressing. It can only be described as a half ranch, half thousand island concoction. Though despite its look, it wasn’t half bad.

IMG_3235The machine that was used to bake the lasagna was impressively fast. The dish could have been a little hotter, but it wasn’t half bad, being taken from cold to hot in a matter of minutes. The tomato sauce was a little too sweet, and therefore tasted liked like it was missing something. A pinch of Italian spice? Something to give it a touch more authenticity. Maybe it was basil?

During our wait and in between our speculative conversation, we had lowered our expectations so much that we actually found the food okay. We were genuinely surprised over how much better it tasted than some of the other Greek restaurant we have visited. This was definitely better than any food court meal. The point of this shoppe is decent Greek food, fast. And they certainly delivered on their average offerings.

Would I come back? – No.
Would I recommend it? – No
Maple Ridge is a little far to travel for just edible Greek food.

PAPA GREEK
670-22709 Lougheed Hwy, Maple Ridge BC, V2X 0T5
604-466-4060
Papa Greek on Urbanspoon

Cristos Greek Tavern

IMG_2342We were driving around looking for date night dinner, when we happened upon this little place. We weren’t too impressed with what we saw on the outside, but we were craving Greek and were tired of driving; so were willing to give this place a try. By looks, it resembled an abandoned house. It was painted white, with its accents and trim done in blue; how very traditional Greek of it. The porch was fenced off, guarding their collection of potted greenery. Plants clustered together in a variety of sizes and species. The windows behind them were barred by wooden shutters and with iron rods. The metal was twisted to resemble a vine-like pattern over the glass. With this and its the large front doors shut, this restaurant didn’t appear too inviting. I did however appreciate the complimentary customer parking to the side. Although it was packed, there was enough free street parking out front and across the street, that multiple laps around the building were not required.

We weren’t expecting much when we walked in; thinking that this was one of those restaurants that was on its last legs, and our meal would be the one to keep them going for another month. But as the ceiling opened up and we could see the two floored open spaced filled with tables and bodies in those tables, we knew we had been far from right. In fact this sight renewed us with the promise of a decent meal. If all these people were here, it must be for a justified reason, no?

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Despite the vaulted ceiling and the generous spacing in between tables, the restaurant felt and looked crowded. 20 plus fake plants hung down from the ceiling; more still sat on ledges and grew from the floor. It all surrounded you in a forest of plastic. Every available wall space was optimized to display stuff. Copper plates, urns, and metal figures. Dish ware decorated in Greek themes of ships on waves and statues of gods. In the foyer there were several European maps framed for display. On bolted down shelves sat copper figures and dolls dressed in traditional Greek wear. Numerous painting of white Greek homes, blue water ways, and yellow sunsets lined our four walls. On the top of the bar stood over 20 bottles of a bright blue alcohol in frosted bottles, with a shark on the front. It was all the same stuff over and over again, and its presence made you feel cramped. How did they have so much of it all? We were immediately seated on the first floor, walking past it, I liked the Greek arch way that was used to separated us and the floor above.

Almost off the bat you could tell this was a family run operation. We found that charming, and the owners looked proud by it. At first we didn’t know why the random woman in the printed blouse and the man in a orange sweat shirt and red ball cap was striking up conversation with all the folks seated at their tables. Though after hearing regular patrons address them by name, and they asking for personal updates in return; did we clue in. It was a nice welcoming touch for most; and for guests like us, who rathered remain un-engaged, we continued to simultaneously play our phones. From there we tried to figure out how each member of the staff was connected. We figured the main server was the sister of the wife; and the young male server in a grey hoodie, was their son.

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The menu offered your standard Greek fare and we went for the safe. I ordered beef souvlaki, thinking my usual lamb would be a gamble at a new place, and certainly not worth the $29.95 risk. Each dinner plate came with the standard rice pilaf and whole roasted potatoes. And a side order of Greek salad, pita and tzatziki. The beef was flavourless and tough. I enjoy the taste of char on my meat, but not to the point of it burning my beef. The pieces on the sides were in worse shape than the cubes in he centre. This all caused more chewing than I wanted. Both the rice and potatoes were hard; the former was over cooked, and the later undercooked. The Greek salad was the best part, you could tell that the vegetables were kept in room temperature and cut fresh when ordered. There was the right amount of dressing and a generous helping of feta. My partner deemed the whole grain pita as his favourite addition to dinner, and was thrilled to be able to get a complimentary second one. Though you usually get one per dinner ordered, and we were originally given just the one to share between our two plates. It’s sad when you consider the complimentary sides, that take the least amount of prep and effort to make, are the best components of the dish.

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My partner ordered his usual chicken souvlaki. The plate didn’t look any better than what we have had else where. It was as bland as it was boring. He had to add several shakes of salt to be able to get through 3/4 of it. I have never seen him add salt at any restaurant. Everything was fresh, but awfully bland. Before tasting the food we both agreed that at $17.95 it was expensive for what it was. Then to have our meal turn out as only ok, made it all the more disappointing.

There was a birthday party upstairs. The staff sang, the tables cheered, and the sound of two plates smashing on the ground could be heard. And following it was the sound of shards being swept up. Quite the show to celebrate a birth, and certain worth the trip out. Where else would they break plates to acknowledge your aging?

As we waited for our bill, I overheard our neighbouring tables complaining about being ignored and forgotten. One woman was trying to get the attention of someone to pay; the other man, for his take out container that he inquired about over 7 minutes ago. Our server was attentive enough for us. She and the young bus boy did multiple laps to peer at the condition of our plates and our drinks. However the service did deteriorate as the restaurant filled up. Glasses of water were left empty, plates and dessert menus were literally dropped off without a word. Luckily we were on our way out so didn’t think too much of it.

Would I come back? – No.
Would I recommend it? – No.
To repeat my partner’s originally sentiment, “it was expensive for what it really was”. And it is with this place that he had his argument against trying new places. He argued that had we went to our usual Greek place we would have paid less, gotten more, and been happier. He was right. I vowed to stick to what we know when it comes to dining with him. Don’t deny your cravings.

CRISTOS
4624 East Hastings St, Burnaby BC, V5C 2K5
604-299-0008
cristos.ca
Cristos Greek Taverna on Urbanspoon

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