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Dining around the Tacoma Greek Festival

Post by Sue Kidd / The News Tribune on Oct. 2, 2009 at 3:59 pm | No Comments »
October 2, 2009 10:13 pm
Fried calamari rings with scordalia sauce were a popular item at the 47th annual Greek Festival, held this weekend at St. Nicholas church.
Fried calamari rings with scordalia sauce were a popular item at the 47th annual Greek Festival, held this weekend at St. Nicholas church.

TNT staffers have returned to the newsroom reeking of Greek.
It was a challenge, but we woofed down double orders of calamari with scordalia dip, gyros, souvlakia, Greek fries, dolmathes and tiropites. Oh, and don’t forget the pastries and Greek coffee.
There are a few ways to eat around the The 47th annual Greek Festival at St. Nicholas Church. Click “more” for our insider tips on navigating the food festival.

Two ways to dine: The first is a sit-down meal – a chicken, fish or lamb meal with Greek salad, beans, rice pilaf and coffee or tea (prices from $6-$11 depending on when you eat and what you order) located inside the cafeteria and adjacent room. But I recommend dining and grazing a la carte if you want a nibble of this or a gulp of that. The a la carte booths are located under the dining tent with communal seating.

Tent dining: A handful of booths sell small plates ranging from $1-$5. The usual Greek suspects are accounted for – including gyros, souvlaki skewers, Greek fries, dolmathes, tiropites and more.

For eating around: Trade your cash for tokens – $1 each – at the token booth near the entrance of the tent. Any unused tokens can be turned back into cash. Cash, checks, debit and credit all are accepted.

THE FOOD:

Our guide to eating around the festival:

Gyros ($5): Slices of gyros meat – ground, pressed meat heavy on the seasoning – nestled in warm pita bread with sliced tomatoes and onions and drizzled with a tart tzatziki yogurt sauce. For the price, these were light on meat and heavy on pita. Good, but not the best bargain for the price.

Calamari with scordalia sauce (Craig Sailor/The News Tribune)
Calamari with scordalia sauce (Craig Sailor/The News Tribune)

Calamari with scordalia sauce ($5): A tray of lightly fried calamari rings. These were our top pick for flavor and value. Scoop the rings into the scordalia sauce, a creamy, thick dip made of potatoes pureed with lemon juice, garlic and olive oil.

Tiropites cheese pies ($2): Buttery, flaky layers of phyllo dough filled with feta, then baked. These were on the dry side, but had great flavor from the sharp, salty feta. I liked that you could watch the kitchen workers pull sheets of freshly baked cheese pies out of the oven moments before dishing them up. Like the dolmathes, the tiropites can be picked up at the kitchen window, not the tent.

Greek fries ($3): Crispy fries dusted with a dose of dried herbs and feta cheese. They limp up fast, so order these last so they stay crisp while you eat at the communal tables. Don’t let these sit for more than two or three minutes, or you’ll be eating soggy Greek fries.

Dolmathes with a lemon egg sauce. (Craig Sailor/The News Tribune)
Dolmathes with a lemon egg sauce. (Craig Sailor/The News Tribune)

Dolmathes ($2): Also one of the best bargains, three stuffed grape leaves make for a hefty portion. They would have been far better had the server drained the dolmathes after pulling them from the steam bath. The water from the stuffed grape leaves greatly diluted the thick, creamy lemon egg sauce served on top of the grape leaves. Watery lemon sauce is no good. The grape leaves were stuffed with ground beef and savory, spiced rice. These can be picked up in the kitchen, not the tent.

Souvlaki ($4): A skewer of marinated and grilled pork chunks served atop two pieces of toasted garlic bread rounds. Slightly overcooked with just a bit too much char, but tasty from the lick of flame and a sprinkle of dried herbs as a finishing touch.

Galaktoboureko pastry (Craig Sailor/The News Tribune)
Galaktoboureko pastry (Craig Sailor/The News Tribune)

Pastries ($1-$3 each): The galaktoboureko may be unpronounceable, but it was a creamy treat at the end to the meal. Farina custard is baked between layers of phyllo and topped with a sugary syrup. The kataifi ek mek was a funky looking dessert with layers of shredded phyllo topped with a creamy yellow pudding, chopped pistachios and cherries.

Greek coffee (Craig Sailor/The News Tribune)
Greek coffee (Craig Sailor/The News Tribune)

Greek coffee ($2): The Greek coffee was as strong as ever and had a milder, lighter sweetness this year (it skewed more bitter than sweet, which I liked). Be careful not to sip and tip your paper cup, the dregs in the bottom pool into a chalky mass. Let it sit and settle for a few minutes.

THE REST:

The deli:
A Greek deli had olives for $2-$3 a container; tzatziki and scordalia sauce for a few bucks each. Also, olive oil, coffee and other Greek packaged foods available at the deli.

The scene:
Families with kids, office workers, church members and just about anyone you can imagine. It’s a vibrant scene with loud Greek music blaring over a sound system and occasional visits from Greek dancers who perform on a raised stage in the tent.

Politico types on the scene: At the opening day lunch, we spotted Pierce County Sheriff Paul Pastor and Pierce County Sheriff spokesman Ed Troyer (they both attended last year on opening day, as well). But we missed Pat McCarthy and Mark Lindquist this year. Also in attendance were our very own politico watchers – David Wickert, Lewis Kamb, Pete Callaghan and John Henrikson from the News Tribune’s PoliBuzz blog

Greek Festival
Where: St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, 1523 S. Yakima Ave., Tacoma
Hours: Dining is 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Friday and Saturday (Oct. 2 and 3) and 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday (Oct. 4).
Info here

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