I made an interesting discovery recently, thanks to a Brigham Young University student who was visiting our neighborhood.
She asked me to recommend a good Greek place in Provo and ... I couldn't. Not only could I not recommend one, I couldn't even THINK of one. I turned to the Internet for assistance and came up with exactly one, a restaurant called The Pita Pit on University Avenue.
This is all the more remarkable considering that, just off the top of my head, I bet I could name a dozen good Greek places in the Salt Lake Valley, not including my favorites in Ogden from the time we lived there.
The truth is, when it comes to Greek food, we in Salt Lake County suffer from an embarrassment of riches. I got an e-mail recently from a reader saying her favorite downtown Greek place had closed and asking for information on its demise. I couldn't turn up too much to tell her, but I could point her in the direction of several possible replacements, one of which is Greek Souvlaki on the corner of 400 East and 300 South.
One of the valley's oldest Greek restaurants, Greek Souvlaki is tiny, but its interior is comfortable, nicely appointed and (most important, in these dog days of summer) cool. The menu is simple: Greek food done right, plus a couple of other items such as hamburgers and the Philly cheese "yeero" (as they spell it here), featuring gyro meat plus traditional Philly cheesesteak toppings.
At lunchtime, when we visited on a recent weekday, the place is full of downtown workers, but everybody makes room for everyone else, and the overall vibe is energetic and friendly. I ordered four kids' spaghetti meals for our children and soon wished I'd ordered just two, or maybe even just one the portions are extremely generous. If you've never tried Greek spaghetti, it's well worth it: mellow, just a bit tangy and full of meat.
My husband had the chicken souvlaki plate, another huge meal with a souvlaki stick, salad, French fries and lemon rice. I had the "yeero" in a combo, which included the rice and a drink. Greek Souvlaki puts care into each part of the gyro: the pita is tender inside and just a little toasty outside, the meat is juicy and plentiful, and the toppings are fresh.
I also loved the rice, which was piquant with lemon without getting gritty or bitter. It was smooth, perfectly cooked and almost creamy in texture. The fries were thick-cut, hot and crispy.
Greek Souvlaki has all the traditional Greek favorites: dolmathes (stuffed grape leaves), spanakopita (spinach pie), baklava and, of course, both chicken and pork souvlaki, nicely seared and redolent of Greek spices.
But the only other Greek classic we could stuff in is a portion of creamy, cinnamon-sprinkled rice pudding.Greek specialties $4.50-$7.29, plates (includes salad, fries and rice) $6.99-$7.69, combos (includes rice or fries and a drink) $7.39-$7.69, sandwiches $3.19-$4.59, sides $1.95-$5.65, desserts $1.55, kids' meals $3.99.
Where: 404 E. 300 South (other locations in West Valley and Murray)
Hours: Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.
Payment: Major credit cards accepted; no checks
Phone: 322-2062Wheelchair access: Crowded but accessible
Stacey Kratz is a freelance writer who reviews restaurants for the Deseret News. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org