It never fails that I depart the St. Nicholas Greek Festival stuffed and reeking of Greek. It’s a Tacoma tradition now in its 52nd year. Tough gig I have here as the paper’s hired belly, right?
Diners who stopped by Friday for the opening of the three-day festival were met with a heavy waft of garlic and an army of volunteers who made quick service of the lines. The tent was erected this week to help the church hold around 9,000 eaters expected this weekend.
You could head to the church’s dining room where volunteers serve sit-down meals, full plated dinners with chicken, fish or lamb. (See below for more details.) When traveling with a handful of diners, as I do every year, we head straight for the adjacent tent where diners can wander from booth to booth, buying dishes for sharing or scarfing, depending on how long it takes to get back to the table. (The booths take tokens, which can be purchased with cash or card from a booth by the tent entrance, turn your unused tokens back into cash.)
Below are photos of what I ate this afternoon, along with prices. Festival details:
52nd Greek Festival
Where: St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, 1523 S. Yakima Ave., Tacoma.
When: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday.
Tickets: Free admission. Food prices range from $1-$6 for a la carte items to $12-$14 for seated dinners.
Contact: 253-272-0466 or stnicholastacoma.org
Also: Tours of the church’s iconography will be given. Dancing every two hours on odd hours, starting at 5 p.m. Friday and 1 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Supporting: A portion of proceeds go to Fish Food Bank
FOUR WAYS TO DINE:
FIRST: There’s a multi-course seated dinner serving chicken every day, fish on Friday and Saturday, and lamb on Sunday. Cost is $12-$14, and dinner comes with Greek salad, braised string beans, rice pilaf, bread, and coffee or tea. For bargain hunters, if you eat between 2-4 p.m. Saturday, you also get free dessert with dinner. A business lunch is discounted to $8 from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Friday. Seatings are continuous, show up when you want, no reservations needed.
SECOND: My favorite way to dine is the a la carte dining tent where church volunteers set up booths offering gyro sandwiches, calamari with skordalia sauce, pork souvlaki, Greek fries, Greek salad, countless Greek pastries, Greek coffee (complete with dregs) and beverages. The booths take tokens that can be purchased by cash or credit; leftover tokens can be returned for cash. A la carte items are bargain priced at $1-$6. Also in the tent is a deli selling take-home foods and Greek grocery items.
THIRD: Don’t miss the kitchen window adjacent to the tent where tokens can buy dolmades (stuffed grape leaves) and tyropitakia (cheese turnovers) every day.
FOURTH: Don’t miss the bakery take-out. Trays of baklava and pastry combo packs are sold upstairs in the church. I bought a dozen baklava for $12.