A few years ago I had a two-week bout of Food Obsessive Compulsive Disorder where all I could think about was Greek food. I don't even know why; something in my subconscious tells me it was some tzatziki that I had one day at work at a place that I can't even remember. I thought it may have been because of My Big Fat Greek Wedding, but I think this episode of FOCD came even before that movie came out.
At that time, I was living in the Koreatown area, and though I knew it was a diverse area, I was nevertheless surprised to learn that there was such a thing as the Byzantine-Latino Quarter just a hop, skip, and jump away. Home to the giant Greek Orthodox Cathedral, it's also home to Papa Cristo's, the Greek restaurant that I fed my FOCD with back then. For a period of two weeks, I ate at Papa Cristo's almost every other day, and I think I was all Greeked out, 'cause I haven't been back for a few years, that is, until the other day.
It was exactly as I had remembered it, the air filled with the heavy scent of spices as we entered through the back storeroom of C&K Importing, the attached Greek market. Walking through a room filled with a myriad of Greek and other wines, a deli counter filled with meats, cheeses and breads that I have yet to explore, and other treats of the Hellenic kind, we hung a quick left at the front of the store and ended up at a place that was all too familiar. We ordered our lunches from Papa Cristo's order counter, took our plastic number, and walked back across the front of C&K Importing over to Papa Cristo's dining room.
You gotta walk past this...
There we sat in the big box of a room whose walls are adorned with both icicle lights and posters of Greece and whose tables are all covered in blue and white checkered tablecloths--cheesy but still festive, enough to make you wanna yell "Opa!". Our plastic number 15 stood at attention in its metal holder, and in just a few minutes our orders had arrived.
...to get to this!
We got what we almost always get: some kind of meat kabob--lamb souvlaki, chicken, lamb chops, gyro, amongst others--served with a Greek salad, rice or Greek roasted potatoes, grilled pita and tzazitki. During my short bout of FOCD, I think I'd tried every meat they have on the menu, which isn't much; this time, I got the chicken and Isaac got the lamb souvlaki. Sitting on plastic plates, our meat quickly succumbed to the back and forth sawing of our plastic utensils. Papa Cristo's meats are never gamey, always juicy, tender, well seasoned, and even better wrapped up in a torn-off piece of pillowy pita bread with a few swipes of the cool, creamy and refreshing tzatziki. The little side Greek salad of lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, kalamata olives and feta cheese is basic, but also a cool accompaniment to the toasty grilled meat on our plates. Isaac opted for the rice, a choice I still don't understand, as it's just plain pilaf...BO-ring! I, however, always go for the roasted potatoes, cut in small wedges, crispy and golden brown on the outside, soft on the inside, with a nice lemony tang. Oh, and all this food for like nine bucks each plate. Not bad. For about 6 bucks, you get a fat pita wrapped around the same meats, with tzatziki, peppers and all that good stuff waiting inside.
Chicken kabob plate
Souvlaki kabob plate
Though I had done a Greek binge fest here back in the day, there are actually quite a few menu items that I haven't gotten to explore. I have had the dolmas (stuffed grape leaves) and the spanakopita (spinach pie) before, which were pretty good. But I had yet to try the grilled baby octopus, little fried fish called marides, grilled eggplant or sizzling feta with tomato. Trust me, temptation was a factor, as I was actually considering ordering more than one off the "haven't tried" list. But after some serious use of willpower, I went only with the sizzling feta with tomatoes. While it didn't really sizzle, it was brought out on one of those typical black cast iron sizzling platters that you get your sizzling Chinese food or Korean BBQ on. The thin blocks of feta were tasty, creamy with a bit of a sharp bite. I only wish they were a little hotter in temperature as they seemed to have started to coagulate a little by the time they arrived at the table. The tomatoes, though, were great. A little charring around the edges was an added treat on the juicy, sweet slices. Despite the cheese temperature, the dish was decent. Nothing a few pieces of pita can't cure.
Not So-Sizzling (but still good!) feta and tomatoes
I have also yet to try their Thursday night Big Fat Greek Dinner, where for a reservation and $18.95, you get to party down with owner Chrys S. Chrys, the cutest and sweetest little man I have ever seen; you also get wine tasting, 2 entrees, 5 appetizers, feta, olives, tzatziki, potatoes, salad, green beans, soft drinks, coffee AND dessert. *whew!* I really have to try and go to this dinner one of these days, so I have to make sure I don't get a relapse of Papa Cristo's FOCD this time and get sick of this place before I can make it to their "Opa!-fest."
2771 W. Pico Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90006