Dining out: Aristo's

Published: Friday, March 20 2009 12:00 a.m. MDT

The treasure trove of locally owned Greek restaurants along the Wasatch Front is mostly of the fast food sort, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that.

But once in a while, it's nice to enjoy some Greek in a little more sedate setting. When I lived in Weber County I did that at Ogden's best Greek restaurant, The Athenian. But now that I live in the Salt Lake Valley I've got Aristo's.

This jewel in the crown of Utah Greek is elegant, but not pretentious, and faithfully proud to present authentic Greek done the best it can possibly be done. If you want sit-down Greek food in a grown-up setting, Aristo's is the place for you.

I say "grown-up setting," and the white tablecloths, soft lighting and earthy walls certainly are, but the staff at Aristo's was very kind when my husband and I showed up for lunch with our 3-year-old son.

We were seated at a small banquette so the little fellow would have some room to move around; there are kids' meals with lidded plastic cups; and our boy quietly amused himself for most of the meal by drawing on the butcher paper-topped table with a glass of crayons provided by the staff.

We started with the tzatziki and pita wedges, a Greek classic elevated to a sublimity by the fresh, cool tang of the minty, cucumber-laced yogurt sauce and the delicious pitas, made for Aristo's by a local baker (you can take a bag of 10 home for six bucks).

My husband, ever the traditionalist, had the gyro, an excellent rendition of the classic rotisserie roasted beef and lamb with thin-sliced red onions, tomatoes and tzatziki rolled in a pita. On the side he had Aristo's gently flavored, perfectly textured rice.

I chose the boureki from the Lenten menu, offered through April 18 and containing many vegetarian and vegan-friendly items. I loved the moment when our server, responding to my request for a recommendation, pointed to the Lenten menu's entrees and whispered reverently, "You won't find these anywhere else in Utah."

I may have to bribe someone at Aristo's for their recipe for boureki, a sort of Greek riff on pommes Anna that included thin-sliced potatoes and zucchini layered with feta and ricotta cheeses and baked in a clay pot. It's one of the most hearty, satisfying and delightful non-meat dishes I've had, ever.

My husband and I spent the rest of the meal snitching keftethes, aromatically seasoned and beautifully browned beef meatballs, off our son's kids' meal. He was OK with it; after a couple of meatballs he concentrated on downing all his rice and discovering the wonders of tzatziki and pita wedges.

Mezedaki $1.25-$18.95, soup and salad $3.95-$10.95, classics and wraps $7.95-$9.95, seafood $10.95-$13.95, specialties $11.95-$15.95, kids' meals $5.95.

Aristo's

Rating: ★★★1/2

Where: 224 S. 1300 East

Hours: Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sunday 4-9 p.m. Starting April 1: Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sunday 5-10 p.m.

Payment: Major credit cards accepted

Phone: 801-581-0888

Wheelchair access: Easy, but steps inside for parts of dining space

Also: Reservations accepted; live music every Thursday evening; Aristo's frozen food available at local grocers

Stacey Kratz is a freelance writer who reviews restaurants for the Deseret News. E-mail: skratz@desnews.com

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