Pictured above: Nader Morcos, co-owner of My Greek Restaurant with lamb chops, foreground, and other Greek favorite dishes at his Puyallup restaurant. Photo by Lui Kit Wong/The News Tribune.
By Sue Kidd
The News Tribune
When the South Hill Greek restaurant changed its name from Mr Greek to My Greek six months ago, the change was so subtle – the flip of a single letter – some Puyallup residents didn’t even notice.
For owner Nader Morcos, the switch was significant. Morcos opened Mr Greek restaurant in South Hill in December 2007 as the first U.S. location for the Canadian-based chain of Mr Greek restaurants. In September 2008, he made a break from the franchise and went solo.
Morcos said Mr Greek was a learning experience, but he said the corporation imposed restrictions requiring what he could serve, how it would be prepared and how much to charge for it. Simply put, he wanted out of the franchise and the corporate owners were agreeable. My Greek, as he puts it, is "my restaurant now."
So up went the new sign with a new name. He lowered prices and restructured the menu with his favorite Greek and Mediterranean dishes, and added a few American dishes to fill in the menu.
"I have my own menu, I can decide what I like," said Morcos, who was taught to cook by his Greek grandmother and his mother. He moved here 20 years ago from Egypt, following a brother who settled here first. That brother, Nabil Morcos, is his business partner. Together, they have operated gas stations, but this is their first restaurant.
The scene: A heavily designed space, My Greek’s interior is a handsome mix – if you are a fan of modern design. Horizontal stripes of pumpkin, beige and slate decorate one wall, accented with Greek blue and buttery yellow. I can’t explain the floating panels hanging from the ceiling, but they probably serve to buffer any cacophony that would be irksome from the tall ceilings and wood floors. Interesting graphic photographs depicting scenes of Greece and blue pendant lamps add a little "opa" to the room.
The menu: Classic Greek and Mediterranean dishes such as gyros, moussaka, dolmades, falafel and souvlaki anchor the menu. For the bring-along diner who doesn’t appreciate Greek or Mediterranean food, there are steak and ribs. But most of the menu is solidly Greek. Six vegetarian entrée choices will keep veg heads happy.
For the kids: The children’s menu gets the mom seal of approval with eight interesting choices for kid eats, priced at $5.99 (including pop and drink). I tried to nudge my 8-year-old son out of his kiddy palate zone and try the children’s gyros or souvlaki, but he opted for the Kraft Mac & Cheese. Foodie mom strikes out again.
People in the kitchen: Morcos guides the kitchen and directs the menu, but he gets help from several kitchen staffers, including "Yiayia" (Greek for grandmother). Her name is Christence Burns, but Morcos said staffers and diners alike call her Yiayia.
Dishes sampled: The appetizer dolmades ($6.99), described on the menu as Mediterranean-style, were the most densely stuffed grape leaves I’ve ever eaten. They were something akin to little Greek meat loaves – solid missiles of ground beef, rice, mint, parsley and onion wrapped in grape leaves and served with a rich, buttery lemon sauce that was scoop-worthy for a basket of warmed whole-wheat pita (complimentary garlic bread also comes with entrees).
The calamari ($8.99) comes grilled or fried. We opted for fried and wish we had gone with grilled because the fried calamari skewed chewy from too much time in the fryer. Santali shrimp ($8.99) had a mushy quality and a commercial-tasting tomato sauce.
For entrees, stick to the basics at My Greek – gyros, souvlaki and moussaka. The classic gyros meal ($12.99) is lamb and beef, cooked rotisserie style, spiked with oregano and other spices, shaved thinly, and served as a big, meaty sandwich in a warm whole-wheat pita with sliced red onions, tomatoes and a drizzle of tzatziki yogurt sauce. The gyros came with two sides and a Greek salad.
On two visits, the Greek salad disappointed with wilted lettuce, and was overdressed with a flat vinaigrette. A substitution of a village salad for a $1.59 upcharge was offered on a third visit, and I bit. I was glad I did: The uncomplicated village salad yielded chunky tomatoes, crisp slices of green pepper, shards of red onions and hefty cubes of feta – drizzled with a grassy-tasting olive oil and dusted with oregano.
Sides were mixed. Roasted veggies were crunchy sautéed with chunky pieces of fresh-tasting squash, zucchini, broccoli and tomatoes. Green beans were unpalatably chewy on one visit. The Greek potatoes were hearty simmered potatoes with a tomato sauce that lacked the zip needed to be memorable. Buttery, fragrant rice drizzled with tomato sauce commanded my attention with a bright, lemony flavor. Greek seasoned potatoes were dry, fried potato discs sprinkled with feta (for an upcharge) that needed extra tzatziki for moisture. Greek French fries were skins-on and golden fried, but arrived without the promised feta.
The beef souvlaki shish kebab meal at lunch ($8.99) was the dish that would keep me coming back again and again. Savory strip loin fragrant with oregano came grilled perfectly medium, as requested, the tasty chunks of beef wrapped up in a warmed pita with tomatoes, red onions and tzatziki.
The lamb shish kebab meal at dinner ($13.99, with two sides and a salad) didn’t draw the same praise as the beef kebab. Chewy lamb pieces paired with a sour marinade drew low marks from the table. Lamb chops ($17.99, with Greek potatoes and roasted vegetables) were perfectly medium rare, as requested, tender from a citrus-spiked marinade and smoky from a light char on the grill.
Moussaka ($12.99, with rice and salad) satisfied with hearty layers of marinated eggplant and zucchini on a base of creamy potatoes. Topped with a lightly sweetened béchamel sauce tinged with aromatic spices, the casserole hit all the right notes – except for one small quibble. The ground beef in the center was dry, loose and provided too crumbly a companion for the dense layers of vegetables and creamy richness of the béchamel.
For dessert, baklava is the Greek standard. It was hit and miss here. On one visit, the baklava ($3.25) was stale, chewy layers of paper-thin filo dough. On another visit, layers of filo were flaky and buttery.
Service: Impeccably friendly service on every visit made for hospitable dining. Glasses remain filled, children entertained with crayons, and a host circulated the room checking in with diners throughout the meal.
MY GREEK RESTAURANT
WHERE: 13333 Meridian East, Puyallup
HOURS: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sundays-Thursdays and 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays.
CONTACT: 253-864-6000 or www.mygreekmediterraneangrillandmore.comcq
DETAILS: Credit cards accepted
PRICES: Entrees $12.99-$19.99 for dinner