It's All Greek to Me
Hard to pronounce, easy to love.
Tzatziki, baklava, souvlaki, spanakopita. The pronunciation might make your head spin, but the incredible flavors of Greek food are worth tripping over your tongue when you order. You don’t need to make the roughly 6,000-mile trek to Greece to satisfy your cravings — or your curiosity if you’ve never dined on Greek cuisine. Instead, stop by one of these restaurants, known regionally for their Greek-inspired offerings. And remember: If you can’t say the name, you can always point to the menu.
At Aristo’s in Salt Lake City, Greek food is more than gyros. It’s Greek flavors, ingredients and heritage.
“We get a lot of our ingredients imported from Greece,” says chef and manager Trenton Huntsman. “Our extra-virgin olive oil is imported from Greece, our roasted peppers are Macedonian peppers, our sea bass is from Cypress, our mint is actually the mint Aristo’s family brought from Greece, and we raise here.”
The owner makes regular treks to Greece and once took Food Network host Guy Fieri there for a special segment. Fieri also featured the restaurant on his popular show, “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.”
“One of Guy Fieri’s favorites was our lamb tacos,” Huntsman says. “We also have a roasted lamb shank that we braise and roast for about three hours that’s really popular.”
The oxtapodi (octopus in Greek) — straight from the Mediterranean Sea — is another big draw.
E.leaven Food Company
One of the most popular offerings at E.leaven Food Company in Jackson, Wyoming, is its delectable gyro. The up-market, deli-style eatery isn’t a Greek restaurant, but the Greek pita sandwich fits in well with the 10-year-old establishment’s menu.
Try the Greek salad, which combines romaine lettuce, cucumber, red onion, bell peppers, tomato, Kalamata olives and feta in a red wine vinaigrette. Hunter Frobouck, co-owner with wife Molly, recommends adding gyro meat to the salad.
Occasionally, the restaurant offers a gyro omelet inspired by a restaurant in Pittsburg, Frobouck’s hometown. “It combines gyro meat with American cheese, bell peppers and onions, which sounds really bizarre but the flavor profile is pretty awesome,” he says. “Once you try it, it’s a game changer. It’s probably not very Greek but it works.”
For 25 years, the Grecian Key in Pocatello, Idaho, has done its best to recreate authentic Greek flavors. Owner Sophia Huddleston started the restaurant in 1981 to honor the heritage of her father, John Andros, who came to Pocatello from Greece decades ago.
The restaurant is known foremost for its tasty gyro, but cook Kacey Hale says the traditional Greek dishes like moussaka, spanakopita and tiropitakia are also popular. For more adventurous diners, Hale recommends the saganaki, a cheese and egg dish doused in brandy and set ablaze. “When we light it on fire everyone in the restaurant who works here screams, ‘Opa!’ which means cheers in Greek,” Hale says. “I think that is the most authentic Greek experience in this restaurant.”
Tom’s Gyros and Burgers
Greek food may seem an unconventional pairing with classic American burgers and fries, but many a customer has been wowed by the gyros at Tom’s Gyros and Burgers in Pocatello, Idaho, says Dimitri Manolis, manager.
Tom’s Gyros offers several Greek-inspired offerings: a classic gyro, chicken souvlaki and a veggie pita. Then there’s the unconventional pastrami pita, crab pita and chicken strip pita. If you like your Greek food even more Americanized, try the feta burger, with a thick slice of feta cheese, or the Titanic special, a double cheeseburger with bacon and gyro meat.
Padeli’s Street Greek
Padeli’s Street Greek is a no-frills spot to grab quick and mouthwatering Greek food. The downtown Salt Lake City restaurant is a newer joint with deep roots in the city; it’s operated by the founders of Salt Lake’s Greek Souvlaki restaurants.
At Padeli’s, you’ll stand in a line while employees build your custom pita, bowl or wrap with traditional gyro meat, chicken, pork or falafel bomb, a garbanzo bean and feta cheese creation. Or select a salad or gyro off the features menu and make it a combo with a side of pita chips and dip, fries (add them “Greek style” inside your gyro for no charge), tiropita, spanakopita, lemon rice, avgolemono soup, dolmas, or shishito peppers. It’s hard to go wrong with baklava for dessert, but customers at Padeli’s also rave about the chocolate brownies.
Wasatch Broiler and Grill
Dedicated Greek restaurants aren’t the only spot to get a taste of the Mediterranean. One of the best-selling items at Wasatch Broiler Grill in Sandy is the kabobs with lemon rice, says James Stevenson, general manager and acting bartender. The restaurant serves modern American cuisine with a Middle Eastern flair and “a lot of people come in just for the kabobs and lemon rice.” The steak and chicken kabobs are admittedly more Middle Eastern, Stevenson says, but the bright yellow lemon rice definitely has a Greek flair. The rice is flavored with lemon, lemon salt and a bit of saffron to give it color and zip.