My lovely wife the Rock Star and I have recently experienced culinary rebirth. Phoenixlike, from the ashes, we have risen anew in our passion for all foods Greek. Gyros, souvlaki, hummus, pita, baklava, it seems we cannot get enough delights from the Hellenic Republic. We have dined several times recently at our beloved neighborhood Zorbas, even furnished our Super Bowl spread with Grecian goodies (this last meal proved a resounding success, both with ourselves and our guests), thus like Sparta of old, we seek new worlds to conquer. In fact, in doing some preliminary factfinding from this post, I've discovered that Athens, in its citystate days, even sent a failed expedition to Syracuse, not the one in New York State, of course, but it's ancestral namesake, on the island of Sicily. One wonders how gastronomic history might have been different if today the Godfather island were under Grecian and not Italian rule. Grist for the fanciful mill, indeed! However, these days Food Wars are thankfully much more benign than in Peleponnesian times, and in short, my lovely bride and myself wondered how Kostas Cafe would stack up in a culinary sense against our new-old friend Zorbas, and motored to Kostas one recent eve to undertake just such a comparison.
Both Kostas and Zorbas seek to give you that experience of dining in a Thessalonian home, as best they can considering their strip-mall locations. (I'm very glad to report that there are three Kostas locations to choose from; in this case, we did our primary research at the Preston at Park digs.) Lots of homey wallpaper and bric-a-brac on upper shelves. Smallish dining areas. Old photos depicting Greek dining and day-to-day life. Piped-in, popular tunes straight from the Aegean islands. (Greece basically consists of a smallish mainland by American standards, as well as islands. Lots and lots of islands.) We were seated immediately in the front dining salon, and turned our attentions at once to the menu.
If appetizer battles can be seen as small skirmishes, then I believe Kostas was victorious during the opening salvos. Hummus proved both lemony and lip-smacking, and Kostas served delightfully warm pillows of pita to go with, and we were so taken by them, that I think one could easily make a meal and be totally satisfied. Avgolemono means "egg-lemon," and the avgolemono soup continued our lemony pledge to give Kostas seniority in this conflict. However, the outcome began to swing back toward Zorbas with the presentation of entrees. Nothing wrong with the Gyro Plate: the delicate strips of lamb served with fresh tomatoes, onions, and particularly cucumbery tzatziki were every bit as nice as Zorbas. That was the Rock Star's choice, and I wish mine had met with such success. Ultimately, though, my Athenian Combo fell a bit short: the lamb chops were nicely done medium-rare, but smallish, and the souvlaki was a bit dry. The biggest disappointment, I fear, was the broiled scampi, which proved to be quite dry and overly fishy. Next time, I will order something else. Finally, baklava provided redemption in the form of fresh phyllo laced with cinammon and what seemed like nutmeg, and was some of the nicest baklava I've had in recent years.
SERVICE & WEBSITE
Service at Kostas was quite adequate on this evening, lacking the special touch of friendliness and extended family which makes Zorbas so memorable. Website is http://www.kostascafe.com/, and the best news about that is they offer coupons! We'll be back.
So far, I feel that despite Kostas success in the appetizer, soup, and dessert departments, the service and entrees give a slight edge for the moment to Zorbas. However, the battle is ongoing. Form your own expedition soon, and as always:
LIFE IS TOO SHORT FOR MEDIOCRE FOOD!!!