I usually draw blanks when thinking about places to go for Monday lunch. More often than not, I eat too much and exercise too little on the weekends. My body’s natural reaction on Monday is to instruct my brain that it should burn off calories instead of piling them on. Today was no different. Try as I might, my brain was totally unable to process a mental search for restaurants. I also tried searching online, but I wasn’t able to coerce myself to type in the words “urbanspoon” or ”yelp” in the browser.
I knew that fighting my body’s natural signals would be a fruitless battle, so I decided to go along with it and try to burn off some calories first. I changed into exercise attire, put on my running shoes, and walked downstairs to the exercise room. I then turned on the television and hopped on the elliptical machine for a 2 hour, 25 mile exercise (you cover more ground in less time exerting less effort on an elliptical compared to running).
I happened to be watching season 2 of the show “The Wire” while I was on the elliptical. The crime boss that the police were after in season two was named ‘the Greek’, and I kept hearing this name over and over again during my two hours on the machine. After I put in my two hours and burned off around 1500 calories, I exited the room and walked up the stairs with the two words ‘the Greek’ still echoing in my head. My wife happened to see me walking up the stairs and she instinctively asked me what we were going to have for lunch.
I answered, “Greek”.
And I knew just the place to go: Stephos Souvlaki Greek Taverna. This restaurant has been on my radar for a while now because it was the fourth most popular restaurant on urbanspoon. The reviews indicated that there was always a huge lineup at this restaurant, and because it was rare that I had the time to wait in line for a meal, I never got around to visiting Stephos. Well today just happened to be a day where both my wife and I didn’t have a lot going on after lunch. Thus it was the perfect day for us to wait half-an-hour for lunch – if we had to.
The restaurant was a bit hard to find because it didn’t have signs that were visible to my wife, who was searching for it by looking out our car window. Since we couldn’t find it while driving, we decided to park our car and to try to find the restaurant on foot. We tried to look for a long lineup but there wasn’t one to be found. There wasn’t even a short lineup, or any lineup for that matter while we were looking for the restaurant on Davie. We finally found the restaurant by it’s street number: 1124 Davie.
Walking into the restaurant we found that it was only partially occupied with diners. The dining room was large and there were entire sections that had only one or two tables occupied.
We waited for 6 or 7 minutes before someone finally came up front to take us to our table. Our server was the one who brought us to our table and he was really friendly and informative. When he came to take our orders, he told us that the most popular dishes in the restaurant were the calamari dinner and the roast lamb. He also told us that the diet cokes we ordered where their biggest money makers, and as such, they were not refillable. Since they were not refillable, he chose not to put ice in our drink glasses so that we could get as much soda as possible in their rather skinny glasses.
Along with our two soft drinks, we ordered four dishes for our lunch. The first was the calamari appetizer.
Both my wife and I agreed that this dish tasted exactly like salt crispy fried chicken from Taiwan. The flavours of the batter/breading were almost exact matches to the flavours of the batter/breading of Taiwanese salt crispy chicken. The crispy breading was also as oily as the breading of salt crispy chicken. But we didn’t mind the greasiness because it reminded us some much of our favourite guilty pleasure. The calamari itself was tough, dry, and chewy. It took a lot of effort to break down each piece of squid to a consistency that was adequate for ingestion. The dish was priced at $7.95, which was somewhat cheaper than the deep fried calamari at local chain restaurants, but which was also the only thing we ordered today that didn’t scream VALUE with it’s price tag.
We thought that the pita bread we ordered was value for the money.
We thought the pita was value for the money because it was priced at a mere 95 cents for the two not-small pieces we received. But when we looked at the bill at the end of our meal, we didn’t see a charge for it. We asked our server if they had forgotten to charge us for the dish. It turned out that the pita was included with our main dishes and that he just failed to mention it to us while we were placing our orders.
I thought that the pita tasted average. It tasted more like bread than the pita that I was used to eating. But I don’t think I’ve ever eaten any ‘real’ Greek food so I’m not even sure what really constitutes the true texture of a piece of pita. My wife, the bread lover, also commented that the pita was rather unspectacular. We both agreed that the pita tasted much better when dipped into the tzatziki.
For my main dish, I went with the roasted lamb.
The plate I received consisted of a lot of rice, two huge pieces of potatoes, some carrots and green beans, and Greek salad. The rice and salad were similar to the versions you would find in food court Greek good. The green beans and carrots were mushy and reminded me of the veggies I was served in boarding school. The potatoes were ok, neither spectacular nor disappointing.
The star of the dish was the roast lamb. It was fall-apart tender, juicy, and extremely flavourful. It had absolutely no gamey flavours. The piece of lamb I received was also filled with absolutely fabulous bits of tendons and connective tissues that I could get enough of. I devoured the meat, fat, tendons, and connective tissues in no time and cleaned off every piece of bone. This was one satisfactory piece of lamb. The price of this huge plate of food was $10.95. It’s been a long time had since I’ve had such a (ful)filling plate at a restaurant for this price.
My wife ordered the small beef souvlaki, which was an even better value for the money at $7.95.
Her dish came with the same potatoes, salad, rice, and veggies as my plate. The only difference between her plate and mine was the protein. If it was up to me, the beef souvlaki would be my last choice out of the beef, pork, chicken, and lamb. In my limited experience with greek food, I’ve found the beef souvlaki to always be tougher, chewier, and drier than either the chicken, pork, or lamb.
As my wife was eating her skewer of beef, I asked her if the beef was dry and flavourless. She said that it wasn’t. She said that the beef was flavourful and juicy. To prove it, she gave me a piece to try. She was right. The beef had nice, beefy flavour and it was the juiciest beef souvlaki that I’ve ever had. The meat also had a firm and bitey texture that was similar to a New York striploin. It was something that I would consider ordering if they run out of the roasted lamb on my next visit here.
Was the food at Stephos good? Yes it was. The dishes we had were generally good. I wouldn’t say that the food was amazing, but it was definitely flavourful and represented a huge bang for the buck. The portion sizes of our two main dishes were huge and they had pre-inflation price tags. Would we come here again? That’s another yes. Compared to similarly priced fast-food joints, the food at Stephos just SCREAMS value for the money…we’ll just make sure to hold off on the appetizer portion of calamari for $7.95 and go for the dinner portion.