Photo by Dhanraj Emanuel
Georgia's Greek Cuisine
3550 Rosecrans St.
Thirty years is a long time to be doing anything continuously, especially something as all-consuming as operating a restaurant. But Georgia Stathoulis has been feeding people seven days a week for going on three decades now, first with a Greek restaurant in Normal Heights and currently at her long-running Midway district location—you've undoubtedly seen the enormous sign for Georgia's Greek Cuisine painted in a Hellenic-inspired typeface as you drive north on Rosecrans. The business is, and always has been, in the family. Georgia, her sister-in-law, Anna Vlahopoulos, and their husbands work in the restaurant to make sure everything is cooked true to their heritage.
Because the hard-working folks at Georgia's keep the restaurant open from lunch straight through dinner, it's the perfect place to get better-than-decent food during the off hours of the mid-afternoon. The lunch entrées, served until 4 p.m. every day, are a good deal for an ample amount of food; the special combo is the best choice for the indecisive, with two options from a list of traditional Greek dishes, including the most excellent stuffed grape leaves, or dolmades. The filling of ground beef, rice and herbs in these rolls is flavorful and not too dense, and the grape leaves have a texture that's pleasant to chew. They're delicious served warm, with an eggy lemon sauce. And the mousaka is uncommonly light, despite being composed of layers of creamy béchamel sauce, meat, fried eggplant and zucchini. All lunch dishes come with a side of rice pilaf, a crisp Greek salad and good pita bread.
Pita sandwiches, available day or night, are a value; none is more that $6. They're filled with grilled beef souvlaki, broiled chicken or a nice rendition of gyros, garnished with tomato, lettuce and raw onion (a seriously undervalued sandwich component). On the side is homemade tzatziki, thick Greek yogurt blended with sour cream, cucumber, dill and garlic. And though I hope you won't ask Georgia and her family to re-enact the “Cheeseburger, Cheeseburger” sketch from Saturday Night Live, there is a cheeseburger on the menu. You can get it Greek-style with additional toppings of feta cheese and gyros meat.
Greek cuisine is known for its variety of appetizers, and Georgia's list runs the gamut. You can try an array of them with the mezedakia platter, which is great for sharing. It comes with a few portions each of the cheese and spinach pies called spanikopita, starter-sized dolmades, homemade hummus, feta cheese and a bunch of marinated vegetables. Among the other appetizers, I would avoid the falafel. When done well, they're sublime, but these are cooked a little too well-done for me. The flavor of the chickpea fritters is good, slightly spicy, but the triangle-shaped nuggets on the appetizer plate were fried well past crispy, until they were dark and moisture-less. We thought the lunch entrée falafel would be better, but the palm-sized flat patties were even drier. To wash them down, there's an assortment of Greek wines, including the pine-y Retsina, a white wine with an interesting—but acquired—taste, and smell, of a forest. I prefer the Roditis, a dry rosé with good acidity.
And although I have an average-sized sweet tooth, I can tell that their homemade pastries are a cut above; the restaurant does a lot of dessert catering. Everything is buttery rich and dripping with fragrant honey, from the fantastic walnut-laden baklava, cut into the familiar diamond shapes or bite-sized cylindrical versions sprinkled with chopped pistachios, to katafi, similar in taste but with a bird's-nest appearance. Yummiest of all is galaktoboureko, a filo-crusted semolina custard pie, scented with sweet citrus syrup. It's delicious cold, delectable when heated.
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