Everybody has them. Those neighborhood joints you walk/drive by a million times but never go into. For no good reason. The place looks nice enough and clearly has customers, but you always just pass it by. We've lived in the Valley for over a decade, within walking distance of the Great Greek and we never went until last month. Our friends, S and K (who used to live nearby) were horrified. Turns out the GG is one of their all time favorite places. Or so they claimed. You'd think if that were true they would have drug us there long before the night K was due to leave the country for an extended length of time. Of course, it was the one restaurant she just had to eat at one more time before she left, so that has to count for something. I guess there isn't a lot of Greek food where she's going.
So we strapped on our sneakers and off we went. Not only would we burn off some calories on the way there and back, but the Man would get to enjoy his wine without worry. I, of course, checked out the menu before we left, but we decided to let our friends choose the food, since they were the experts. Since I have very little experience drinking Greek wine, I relied on our extremely happy and helpful waiter's advice. He has expensive tastes, but also claimed that if we didn't like it, he'd buy the bottle from us and then finish it after his shift. I'm pretty sure he meant it.
The gals decided to show us the flavor of the place by ordering the "famous" (according to their website) family-style feast: 14 of their most popular and traditional dishes for only $24 a person. This has to be the best deal in LA. We had 5 adults, were allowed to only order for four (going along with your waiter's wine choices has benefits) and still couldn't begin to put a dent into all the food that found its way to our table. I told the Man to lay-off the initial basket of hummus and pita, but it was so good, he couldn't stop himself. Without realizing how much food was coming we also ordered a few apps K just had to have one last time. Who are we to say no to grilled sausages and Cognac, flame-melted cheese lit on fire tableside? I think Saganaki is my new favorite food. Delicious and dangerous. The other stand-outs for me: Seasoned Meatballs "Keftethes", Golden-Battered Kalamaria, Stuffed Grape Leaves "Dolmathes" and the piece de resistance...the "Pastitsio" Deep-Dish Pasta. So wrong, yet so, so right.
The place was filled to capacity by 8pm – not something many restaurants can claim these days, so they are clearly doing something very right. While I didn't love everything, the food was authentic and cooked with care. The atmosphere relaxed and fun, like hanging out at your crazy uncle's house. I say that because, ladies beware. There is dancing and if you're female, you have no choice but to be dragged out of your seat and around the restaurant. I'm not sure if the waiters are required to dance or use it as an excuse to get close to the ladies, but either way, it's tradition whether you like it or not. Best to just go with the flow and have fun with it. Believe me, after all that eating, getting up and moving feels pretty good.
We're glad we finally got to enjoy one of our "lost" neighborhood joints. While not exactly a place to go for a quiet date, it is a great place to bring a big group. We will be back with friends in tow and our dancing shoes on.
The Great Greek
13362 Ventura Boulevard
Sherman Oaks, CA 91423-3939
Lisa Dinsmore is a writer, web programmer, movie and wine lover. She currently runs two review websites to share her passions: www.crazy4cinema.com and www.dailywinedispatch.com. She is also the Managing Editor of One for the Table.
by Kitty Kaufman