Jun 292011
 

I made a weekend jaunt out to Philos Grill recently with high hopes. The admittedly scant information I dug up about it indicated that this place dished out tasty, Greek-inspired diner food from a counter. Located on the city’s east side on the once-great thoroughfare of Truman Road, I expected an old school joint and I got it.

Exterior

The place is a classic urban pit stop, featuring a huge menu and a confoundingly schizophrenic interior.

Interior

Interior

The walls are covered with a combination of handwritten signs, promotional materials straight from food vendors, cheap European tchotkes, and faux nostalgic elements including a huge mural featuring Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, Humphrey Bogart and a crazed Elvis in a sort of re-imagining of Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks.

Interior

Mural

Adjacent to the counter is a small area with condiments, a small tabletop ice machine and the cheapest plastic utensils known to humankind. There is no beverage fountain, just a cooler of Coca-Cola and a few random off-brand sodas. There are also several arcade games, at least one of which was out of order on my visit.

The gentleman at the counter, who I can only assume was the owner, was a surly sort, not one to make small talk or sell you on anything from the extensive menu. And boy what a menu. It offers everything you’d expect like gyros, Greek salads, burgers, and chicken wings but also strays into dubious territory with offerings like spaghetti, steak dinners and pulled pork. My take on Philos Grill is that the owner falls for every new product that his Sysco sales rep pitches to him. I saw slick posters for a ton of menu items that are likely purchased already made, frozen, bagged or cryo-vacced, and heated up to order. There is no way the Grumpy Greek is smoking meat or aging steaks. To me, this was a warning sign that I was going to get mass-produced, premade food.

So I ordered a gyro, seeing the skewered Kronos gyros meat cone behind the counter. Some salad, some hummus rounded out the meal. Once it arrived, delivered after a perplexing 15 or 20 minutes in flimsy styrofoam containers I was admittedly disappointed. I recognized not just the meat, but the pita as being a packaged, frozen product. I’ll bet the tzatziki sauce came from a jar too. The Greek salad was comprised of iceberg lettuce (perhaps prewashed, from a bag) topped with a mushy stuffed grape leaf, a couple of black olives and some onions and stuff. The gyros and the salads were both dusted with smoked paprika, a bitter and offputting element to say the least. The paprika, mixed with the brownish dressing created the appearance of eating a salad well-past its prime, despite the fact that the lettuce was sufficiently crunchy and fresh-tasting.

Greek salad

Gyros

The restaurant was also pretty dirty, not something I normally like to complain about. But the owner had at least two guys there on the payroll to buss tables and stock the condiment area. The floor and half the tables in the joint had food detritus on them. A couple of ancient televisions rounded out the ambiance, playing an infomercial through a staticky haze.

Philos Grill is old-school for sure, but it represents a class of restaurant that we would just as soon forget. There is ample opportunity for a reasonably priced counter service diner in this neighborhood, and Philos may in fact be doing very well, but they can do a lot better.

Philos Grill on Urbanspoon

Aug 152008
 

A few months ago, I posted about the International Grocery at 80th and Metcalf. In the comments readers Goofy Girl, meesha v. and a blogless gentleman named Leonard mentioned a place nearby called Mediterranean Market. A Twitter shout-out from Bull E. Vard yesterday reminded me, so I was off to check it out.

This is a small, clean market and deli on the East side of Metcalf just north of 75th street. It’s the more spacious and inviting version of International Grocery, for it features at least five tables inside, a well organized series of shelves with various Middle Eastern foodstuffs, and a deli counter with a few meats and cheeses.

The set-up is a little confusing. I ordered my food at the register, but I think I was supposed to go down to the deli counter to place the order. I ordered a chicken shish kebab only to discover that they were out of chicken. Oh well, I went with beef. The guy at the register was possibly the owner, and he was one of the friendliest people I’ve ever encountered in food service. He kept saying “thank you, I hope you like it!”

The menu is small and rather typical: falafel, gyros, kefta, shish kebab, baba ghanoush, hummus, tabouleh, etc. Sure there is a lot to try here but I’m only one man on one day.

After a 10 or 15 minute wait, the sandwich arrived much as you would expect, wrapped in a pita with lettuce, tomato, onion and, well, no sauce. It was a good enough sandwich w/o any sauce because the meat was marinated and fairly well seasoned. The meat was cut into large cubes and then grilled. The cut of beef was a little tough, possibly a sirloin so I wish it was chopped smaller or cooked more rare.

The sandwich came with a generous spoonful of rice. I was really excited because it looked just like the rice pilaf I had at International Grocery which was so good. Alas, the it was simply not up to snuff. It was so salty that I couldn’t finish it (that’s sayin’ somthing) and had been tossed with melted butter. Butter is not bad in and of itself, and can even be nice with rice, but this was far too rich for my taste. I really didn;t want to eat any of it, but unlike that candy-ass Gordon Ramsey I never spit anything out just cuz it ain’t no good.

The plate also had a couple small dill pickle spears and a handful of very good Greek olives, half of which were pitted.

I heard some guys talking about how good the baklava was so I ordered some to take with me. I broke open the container later, veritably thrilled to indulge myself in this delicacy of which I am so fond. As accompaniment, I even splurged on what the machine in the staff room loosely calls a “cafe mocha.” Unfortunately, the substance that they loosely call “hot chocolate-making syrup” had run out and I wound up with a gross, watery coffee.

And a baklava that I did not care for. First, not crunchy. I will give them a break here because I did leave it in a plastic container for a good two hours. The relative heat and humidity probably took its toll. Secondly, it was not even a little sweet. At first, this intrigued me, but the gloppy pistachio filling simply didn’t have any flavor of honey, which is the best thing about baklava. Lastly, it smelled weird, kind of like fried food. I suspect that they brushed it with oil, margarine or some piss-poor approximation of butter.

The best part of my meal was a beverage I had seen but never tried: Vimto. It’s basically a kind of red pop, but a little herbier. M.Toast thinks it tastes like cough syrup and I’ll admit that there is some truth to that. But it didn’t bother me, Vimto lives in that liminal space between medicine and candy much like Luden’s Cherry Cough Drops. I spent my lunch hour thinking about what kind of liquor it would be good with. What did I come up with? Vimto & beer. I’m gonna try it, just you wait.

The real attraction here I’m sure is the selection of imported foods. In addition to canned and boxed goods, they have several kinds of feta cheese for sale by the pound, a whole aisle of cookies and sweets and a nice selection of olive and grapeseed oils.

This was a disappointing visit I’m afraid, but I still like the place. They don’t use bad ingredients or cut corners. I’ve heard very good things about this place, so I suspect that they suffer from inconsistency rather than incompetence. It’s certainly worth a repeat visit to see if they are going on the regular lunch rotation.

Read more:

Yelp

Mediterranean Market on Urbanspoon

Mr. Gyros: 83rd & Metcalf

 Posted by at 11:13 pm
Dec 052007
 

Mr. Gyros is hilarious in many respects. Firstly, its name brings a smile to my face because I picture a little talking gyro. Kind of like that Arby’s talking oven mitt, only not stupid and idiotic. Mr. Gyros also looks hilarious. I mean the faux-Greek temple thing is awesome–as if to shout “this is a temple of processed lamb goodness.” It’s actually easy to miss because it’s white and kind of clean cut in a way that most fast food joints aren’t. As someone pointed out to me recently, it looks like a bank.

Now, before I tried it, I had heard from several people (some of them actually reliable) that Mr. Gyros was awesome, not to be missed. So naturally I was prepared to hate it. Nothing raises more red flags with me than someone telling me that so-and-so’s has the best ______ in town. This is particularly true when you are talking about a fast food spot which Mr. Gyros, despite a few weird indications to the contrary, most definitely is. Among people who grew up in JoCo in particular, the place is the stuff of legend and well-revered. Which is also hilarious.

All that being said, Mr Gyros may have the best gyro I’ve ever eaten.

Mr. Gyros

And it’s a simple thing: pita, meat, tomato, onion, period. And a side of flawless tzatziki sauce. The pita is warm and soft. The meat is tender, well-seasoned, and lacking in undesirable mystery components that one occasionally finds in less reputable Greek establishments. My one complaint? It’s small, real small. You can’t get by on just a sandwich, you need something else like a salad or at least a piece of delicious homemade baklava. Or better yet, two gyros.

Mr. Gyros

So, now I have to go back–again and again, which is really too bad, because I was all prepared to hate it and continue to mock the Greek bank from afar.

Read more:

Mr Gyro's Greek Food on Urbanspoon

Yelp