It’s taverna time again

Large Greek Salad
Large Greek Salad

As a wise man once explained, it’s déjà vu all over again. It’s Greek to Me, a LynLake landmark since its debut in 1982, changed hands in 2016, then shuttered in September 2019, causing anxiety attacks all throughout Southwest. Now, in an alliance of kin of the original Arambadjis family and Erik Johnson, who brings new blood to the business — it’s back.

And it’s busy. That enticing, vine-clad patio was as full as social distancing allowed on the night I stopped by for takeout, available on a limited menu. (Hey, you can’t set cheese afire and holler “opa!” in the back seat of a car.)

The offerings are familiar, and that’s a good thing. Greek taverna fare isn’t complicated, doesn’t depend on tricky techniques mastered at the Culinary Institute, nor ingredients not normally at home in a housewife’s market basket. The secret sauce that knits it is simply warmth and hospitality. Diners swarm here to enjoy themselves, not pass a test.

From the abbreviated list of appetizers ($8-$9), I chose a trio without which Athens, Greece, would be no different from Athens, Georgia.

Gyro & Fries
Gyro & Fries

I started with tzatziki. This classic limpid, liquidy Greek yogurt proved plentiful with dill, but I missed the expected cukes.

Spanakopita fulfilled its promise as the best way yet invented to enjoy your spinach. It’s an inch-thick thicket of chopped greens bound by eggs and improved with yet more dill and nuggets of feta, with its promised sharp and salty kick, all bound by multiple layers of tissue-thin phyllo pastry.

The melitzanasalata, while not a candidate for a photo op with its gray demeanor of pureed roasted eggplant, comes pocked with bits of sweet peppers, garlic (lots of it) and parsley, all moistened with olive oil and red wine vinegar. Dip in a hunk of the kitchen’s robust pita rounds and you’re good to go. The classic Greek salads also get star billing on the menu.

On to the sandwich list ($8-$9): gyros, souvlaki skewers and, my choice, loukaniko. Wrapped in a pita along with threads of red onion and wedges of sweet, ripe tomatoes is a housemade pork sausage — dense in texture and enhanced by sharp-savory spices. I dipped it in tzatziki just because. I followed it up with an a la carte order of paidakia ($5.50), a meaty, char-broiled lamb chop, cooked a bit beyond my specified medium-rare but otherwise a tasty treat enhanced by a wedge of lemon.

Galaktobouriko
Galaktobouriko

The surprise hit of the evening was a dinner plate of shrimp saganaki (not listed on the takeout menu but available when you phone in your order, $12). In a pond of gently flavored mustard-wine sauce lounged half a dozen plus-size shrimp, broiled deliciously to just-past-raw. The morning after, I’m still rolling my eyes in homage to their sweet, true flavor and firm but pliant body. They’re joined by tendrils of sweet peppers and a few capers plus generous hunks of feta to provide muscle to the dish’s compliant composition.

The dessert menu requires simply a single word: baklava ($5). A phyllo-encased triangle of chopped walnuts visited by cinnamon simply oozes honey syrup. It proved much (much!) too sweet for me to finish. Greek (and other) wines and beers are available, too.

Welcome back to the neighborhood; we missed you!

IT’S GREEK TO ME TAVERNA E PAREA

626 W. Lake St.

612-825-4151