Friday, August 13, 2004

Greek blog.

It only seemed fitting today, at lunchtime, to go to Greektown, which is about a 15-minute walk from my office. My lunch companion, Kevin D., was game for the walk and we headed west, crossing over the Kennedy Expressway on the Madison Street sidewalk, and then turning south on Halsted a few more blocks. Greektown isn’t a very large ethnic enclave, but it is distinct. A few years ago, Walgreen’s opened a new drug store in the neighborhood, and though it’s just like any other Walgreen’s in most ways, it does have some Greek signs on the walls outside.

At first we thought that there might be extra crowding today with the beginning of the Olympics, but we rethought and realized that if that happened at all, it might not be until the opening ceremonies are televised here on tape delay tonight. More likely, there would be drunken revelry at a place like the Billy Goat, under Michigan Avenue, whose owner is Greek. Besides, we reasoned, there are plenty of choices among the Greek restaurants, so we could pick one that wasn’t so crowded.

Not to worry. We picked Greek Islands, a restaurant to the corner of Halsted and Adams, and it was busy enough at about 1 p.m., but not packed. I had vague memories of going there in the late ’80s. It’s an enormous spot, complete with the look of whitewashed Greek island ports. This from “This Herculean restaurant, capable of seating nearly 400 people, has keep diners satisfied with mousaka, shishkabobs and baklava since 1971. One of the most popular Greek restaurants in the city, Greek Islands imports its quality extra-virgin olive oil, wines, cheeses, herbs and seafood directly from Greece… Wise appetizer choices include the taramosalata (considered Greek caviar), grilled pita bread or the famous flaming saganaki cheese…”

Opa! We had saganaki and calamari as appetizers, and I had a fine stuffed lamb shank. Kevin had the baklava, which he expressed admiration for. The lemonade was a right mix of sweet and tart, and the service was flawless. Desserts aren’t commonly enjoyed during business lunches (this did count as a business lunch), but at the end of the meal, the waiter informed us that the restaurant was serving a brand-new dessert, in honor of the Olympics, starting today. It was so new that it didn’t have a name. Would you gentlemen care to try it?

Yes, of course. But just one. There was a card on the table that described this new confection: “Try our newest dessert. Sweet shredded filo and chopped walnuts topped with a scoop of Homers Vanilla Bean Ice Cream, drizzled with Greek honey and caramel. $3.95.”

Mmmm. It was a dainty dish fit for a king, maybe Zeus himself. The waiter also informed us that we could make suggestions on the name by filling out a small slip of paper with our name and a phone number. If you’re name is picked, you get something free from the restaurant. Well, OK. Kevin’s name was Honeyed Hellenic Heaven, I think, and mine was Agamemnon’s Delight, “The dessert that launched 1000 ships.”


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