A new restaurant in State College, The Greek, is still in the stages of a soft opening but was quite impressive with what it already has to offer. Owner of the original Waffle Shop, John Dimakopoulous, has drawn inspiration from his Grecian roots and is sharing it in a most pleasing way.
On Clinton Ave, hidden just behind The Waffle Shop on North Atherton, The Greek stands out in style. Interior and exterior design, columns, murals and mosaics are all pattered in an authentic Greek motif. It shares a parking lot with the Waffle Shop but the hours of operation do not conflict. Presently, The Greek doesn’t open until 5 PM and The Waffle Shop is only open for breakfast and brunch. There may be more of a parking problem if The Greek does decide to open for lunch take out as was hinted at in State College.com.
When we visited, the lot was packed and it was busy enough that a line was almost starting to back up outside of the door. This was at about 5:45 but the bit of a bottle neck at the entrance never had us halt in our tracks. We just kept moving at a slow pace and took in the vines that are being trained on the outdoor trellis.
Upon entering, I was surprised that we weren’t queueing up to be seated. The line to our immediate right lead to something more like a fast food counter. We were to place our order and the line was moving almost more quickly that I could take in the food options.
Written on a black board above the registers were the menu items, prices never more that $10.00 (no longer true as of 10/2012), even for the more elaborate combination platters. Our eyes darted amongst the gyros to zero in on the Greek Vegetarian Platter. Just before ordering, I had also sorted out the salads and thought the Village Salad (Horiatiki) would round out our shared meal very nicely.
The staff was efficient in taking our order but warm and open while offering themselves to answering any questions we had. I later took them up on that and asked if the Greek-style Tomato-Basil Soup was vegetarian and was given a clear answer that it was. She volunteered that it had no stock other than the vegetables and they then use an immersion blender. It was obvious she not only understood my question but had clear knowledge about the soup.
I saw many a wineglass being carted to table side and was told that it was set up as a BYOB establishment. We settled for iced tea, were handed cups to serve ourselves at a beverage station as well as a number to place on our table of choice so we could be served our meal.
We crossed the pale colored wooden floor and saw many of the marble-topped tables were already taken but wanted to try to sit on the upper level that looked down onto the ground level dining area. We climbed the steps and saw that both levels probably seated about the same number of patrons; a total of 8 booths, 8 high-top 2 seaters and a few tables for larger parties representing both levels.
One table upstairs had a reserved sign and the only tables unoccupied had yet to be cleaned so we returned to the downstairs and sat at a high-top. After we served ourselves our tea, Jim took the camera to photograph some of the architecture. He wasn’t gone but a moment and our food was served! It looked fresh and the Spanakopita was warm and flaky.
Jim was surprised to return to a table full of food since he was gone a short moment. We dipped our pita wedges into some of the best Tzatziki Dip and Melitzanosalata ever. The latter is an eggplant salad that many will know better as Baba ghanoush. It was smoky, had just the right amount of garlic and had the wonderful pale brown dippable texture that I enjoy so much. There was no mayonnaise in this recipe and it was seasoned just right. The Tzatziki, served in the same sized ramekin as the Melitzanosalata, had a lovely tangy sourness and the flavor of fresh cucumber.
The spices used in the Spanakopita struck me as caraway but Jim thought dill. Either way, whatever was blended with the warm spinach filling was savory and delicious. We decorated the table and our laps with flaky filo confetti as we munched our way through the generous triangle.
We watched the never ending line of patrons come in to order and pause to find tables. It was crowded and some unrelated groups chose to share one of the big eight seater tables but it was all working out because the meals were being served so quickly. The Greek inspired music being played enhanced our time spent there and they have free WiFi for guests.
If there were downsides to our experience, food-wise it would have to be the salads. The Greek Vegetarian Platter came with some Traditional Santorini Salad that was sprinkled with some randy goat cheese. I just don’t like goat cheese, there wasn’t anything wrong with it so that isn’t fair. What was wrong with it and the Horiatiki were the tomatoes. They were pale, mealy and hard like they had been too long in a refrigerator. Unfortunately the base of the Horiatiki is tomato wedges, not greens, and we had ordered a large portion. I wasn’t into the feta wedges but the dried basil was aromatic and flavorful. Both salads’ dressings were really good and the other veggies like cucumbers were super fresh so that kept me picking them.
All in all, I currently have to just rate The Greek as average. It is never easy for a vegetarian to go into any place that serves meat but a sign shouting “Lamb Kababs” staring me in the face makes it even more difficult. I knew what I was getting into and tried to weigh that with what the restaurant does have to offer. The decor is so pleasing and the food is quite good. I plan to return and ask specifically if anything at all is vegan but until their menu expands to offer just a few more vegetarian items (grape leaves, tabouli, falafel) I have to say it’s an average vegetarian experience. It’s about as classy a fast food place as one could find but I don’t know that many kids that aren’t already into ethnic foods will find much happy in their meal. Facebook followers find them here.