Tikanis, people? That’s “what’s up?” in Greek which is the language spoken at today’s reviewed eatery in, you guessed it if you’ve been reading my latest entries, Delray Beach, Florida. If you haven’t been reading through, some highlights include me taking down a giant chicken sandwich, eating a breakfast jammed in a burger, and a sexually titled sushi platter. So, after having Italian the previous day, I wanted to continue the Mediterranean theme with a proper Greek dinner or maybe I just had a hankering for some good Feta cheese.
After a bit of sleuthing through the online food directories, I found Zorba’s Taverna that had a lot of great reviews where people raved about the tasty eats at reasonable prices. Perfect. It didn’t look like much from the outside as it was located in a strip mall, and coming from Chicago, I’m normally used to them looking like the white-washed buildings in Santorini. The sign on the door, on the other hand, already provided me with a taste of the Greek hospitality to come (thankfully sans broken plates). The place was moderately busy, but the seats quickly were occupied as we managed to beat the crowd rushing the doors trying to get out of the rain. Our waiter slowly sauntered over, and he seemed slightly off for some reason I couldn’t put my finger on. Nevertheless, he was amiable. Inside, Zorba’s Taverna was the Greek diner I was expecting complete with a classic Hellenic blue and white motif everywhere along with a fitting tribute to the Anthony Quinn film that serves as inspiration for the restaurant’s name. After looking over the menu that had all of the classic Greek dishes that they’ve served since antiquity like spanokopita, souvlaki, and baklava along with a couple newer Greek innovations like saganaki that was reinvented right in Greektown in my hometown of Chicago. My mom got an order of the saganaki ($8.95) for us to share to start off. For those who have never had the pleasure of trying saganaki, the name describes how the cheese, in this case vlahotyri, is melted in a frying pan since saganaki is the diminutive of sagani or a “frying pan with two handles”. The cheese is then eaten with a spritz of lemon and maybe a sprinkling of pepper. Once Greek immigrants came to America, they served this gooey cheese dish to diners, but as I mentioned before, the Greeks in Chicago added a bit more showmanship to this humble dish. What can add panache to any sort of performance art like preparing and serving food? Fire! If you visit most Greek restaurants in the Chicagoland area, you can experience something like this. Strangely, in Florida they didn’t set the cheese ablaze but rather placed it on our table with a whimper along with a free plate of pita triangles and hummus. The saganaki sans flames was still delicious with a salty and citrusy flair to each forkful. As for the hummus and pita, I don’t know if they do this for every patron or if we were the 100th customers, but it was a great perk to our visit. The pita was warm and fresh, and the hummus was creamy and evenly spiced with a liberal splash of olive oil. We then ordered our food where my dad got the tzatziki platter ($4.95), my mom got chicken souvlaki platter ($12.95), and I got a side of dolmathakia ($7.95) and the roasted Greek chicken ($14.95). Eventually, our food came out, and it all looked great. My dad’s tzatziki or cucumber sauce was thicker than I was used to compared to back home in Chicago but didn’t affect the overall quality. My mom informed me the chicken souvlaki or shish kabob was very dry. On my plates, on the other hand, I found nothing but mouth-watering choices. The dolmathakia consisted of cooked grape leaves that encased fluffy grains of rice with spices and just the right amount of dill that was further enhanced by the translucent dill broth that these mini-grape loves were stewing in. I got a free Greek salad on the side which was verdant and scrumptious along with the creamy pieces of Feta that scratched my itch for cheese like the big rat I am. As for my chicken, although it couldn’t hold an oil lamp to some of my Greek friends’ mommas’ cooking, it was alright for Delray Beach. The chicken was so well prepared that it literally fell apart as soon as I touched it with my fork. From the oregano coated skin to the juicy white meat interior, I was in a state of apotheosis as a foodie during this meal. Unfortunately, then it went downhill from the average green beans to the less than noteworthy potatoes on the side that were quite bland and hard. The tumble from the top of the Mount Olympus of food ended with a definite thud.
So if you’re looking for mostly lip-smackingly good Greek food that’ll make you shout Opa! down in Delray Beach, boogie on down to Zorba’s Taverna.