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All You Can Eat

Trend-setting restaurants, Northwest cookbooks, local food news and the people who make them happen.

March 31, 2011 at 7:00 PM

Speak Greek? Seattle-area chorus offers restaurant raves

A resounding efkharisto (thank you!) to scores of readers who shared with me their Greek food go-tos: from the corner gyro joint to the Greek diner hangouts to the sit-down-dinner places where I might lift a glass of retsina and say, “Here’s looking at you, squid!” Their “bests” included many of my favorites. Did we miss yours? Feel free to join the chorus.

Whether they’ve got a taste for gyros or Greek omelets, arni psito or pastitsio, long-timers pledged their allegiance to a Greek fleet of familiar names. “Mr. D’s at Pike Place Market is the best for a run and grab lunch,” says a fan of Demetrios Moraitis’ gyros. “Just be prepared to have happy onion/garlic breath the rest of the day.” No lie!

“Hey Mom, got any Altoids?” asked my son, Nate, after we dined and dashed last weekend at Pike Place Market, where Mr. D’s is temporarily doing business out of a big red truck due to Market construction.

Have the traditional Greek lemon soup — avgolemono — at Costas Opa in Fremont, insists a reader who’s been doing just that for more than 20 years. “No one makes it better and it will definitely cure a cold.” The dish that cures what ails me is Costas’ lemon- and garlic-dressed kalamarakia: squid fried with mushrooms and almonds. (You might also try it at Tantalus, the Greek restaurant in Issaquah’s Gilman Village.)

“I spent most of my college free time (30+ years ago) at The Continental pastry and coffee shop on The Ave,” recalls a fan from Athens, Greece, who says a trip to Seattle wouldn’t be complete without a visit with the Lagos family at their U District classic, known for its breakfasts, daily specials (lamb shanks!), “papou” George’s pastries and “anything Demetre recommends.”

Panos Marinos runs what many insist is the city’s best Greek restaurant: Lower Queen Anne’s tiny taverna, Panos Kleftiko. Have the sausages! they say. No, the lamb! Don’t miss his yigantes yahni (gigante beans)!

Those beans are “yigantes” alright. Now, pass me a spoon. [Seattle Times/Dean Rutz]

And whatever you do, be forewarned: in late summer Panos heads to Greece for a monthlong annual vacation. “We see lots of disappointed people walk up, read the sign, and walk off looking hungry and sad,” writes a neighbor. To which I would reply, “Well, send ’em to Greenwood!”

Come in, we’re open! at Panos Kleftiko (except when they’re not). [Seattle Times/Dean Rutz]

In Greenwood, you’ll find Georgia’s Greek Restaurant & Deli, a refuge for folks like me, fond of the fried calamari with thick skorthalia and octopus salata with creamy feta dressing. Expect warm service, Greek wine and live music on weekends. (Live South? Spiro’s Greek Island in Kent offers belly dancing Friday and Saturday evenings.)

Fried calamari with skorthalia at Georgia’s? Come on, take a dip.

Elsewhere in Greenwood, a cry goes up for Yanni’s. Many echo the sentiment of those who say the rotisserie chicken is excellent, “but so is everything else on the menu,” citing ample portions at reasonable prices and staff that “know the customers and remember you when you come back — even if it’s months later.”

For “fancy” Greek food I’d be quick to send you to Vios Cafe, now with two locations, on North Capitol Hill and in Ravenna. And I’m not alone. Owner Thomas Soukakos’ casual, kid-friendly cafes appeal to diners intrigued by the clean-tasting flavors (have a meze plate with souvlaki, and pick and choose among daring dips and sensational salads).” I’d also suggest Tom Douglas’ downtown restaurant Lola, where Greek-accented fine dining is adapted with Northwest know-how.

Lamb souvlaki mezze plate, plus avgolemono at Vios (left), and a Northwest mushroom skewer with Greek Salad and “smashed potatoes” at Lola.

West Seattle is crazy for Kokoros Greek Grill, as are fans from elsewhere. It’s small, and parking’s a bear, they say, but their gyros are tops, and “If I didn’t have to drive from Kirkland for my Kokoros fix, I’d be there daily,” notes one regular.

The avogolemono at Ballard’s Plaka Estiatorio is “better than my mom’s,” says a fan. OK, I’ll try it. And I’ll also try Plaka’s Papousakia — “a lush casserole of eggplant and minced lamb,” according to Seattle Times critic Providence Cicero.

Ocopodi salata, at Plaka Estiatorio [Seattle Times/Greg Gilbert]

Gyros is the call-of-the-day at crowded cafes like Kirkland’s Santorini Greek Grill, where the speedy crew slice spit-roasted lamb and beef and stuff it into pita or serve it on their popular gyros salads.

You’ll find “enormous gyros, generously stuffed” at Taki’s Mad Greek on Crown Hill (though I’d go for the Mad Greek Platter with roasted potatoes). And you’ll find that everyone is family at Niko’s Gyros in Magnolia — praised for its gyros as well as its “incredible fries and addictive tzatziki.”

Drawn by the sound of Greek folk music, folks stay for the namesake-sandwich at Spyros Gyros in Des Moines. In Mountlake Terrace, it’s always time for the excellent gyros at Time Out Burgers, insist those in the know (myself among them), who know the place better as a Greek-owned deli and cafe. Farther north is Kafe Neo (with locations in Edmonds, Mill Creek and Marysville), where an expansive menu includes vegetarian and vegan gyros, though I go for the seafood version stuffed with thick-cut “kalamari.”

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