A group of co-workers and I went to Greek Isles every Wednesday for about 10 years for the roast chicken special: quarter chicken, two sides, bread and iced tea for less than $8.
Unfortunately, the popular South End lunch spot is now closed and looking for a location, so I need a new place to get our Greek fix.
It’s easy to find gyros, of course. Showmars is everywhere and has Greek dishes. They have a solid gyros sandwich and platters, along with souvlaki and grilled chicken Santorini on pita. I like the large Greek salad with grilled marinated chicken.
But not many places specialize in Greek cuisine. Here are some ideas for going Greek.
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Mad Greek Cafe
I’ve driven past this place on South Boulevard near Woodlawn for years and finally stopped in. With that name, it has to be good. It is. This diner-style restaurant with big photos of Greek isles on the walls serves breakfast all day and has an extensive Greek menu.
Most entrees come with good fries, pita and a big Greek salad. My half-chicken was $11.95, more than I’d prefer to pay for lunch, but there was a lot of food. I took half of my meal home. The chicken had crispy skin and was bursting with lemon and oregano flavors. It came with a slice of lemon, a nice touch and needed because the white meat was dry.
House-made spanakopita appetizer ($6.95) was rich and moist, though the pastry was not very flaky.
I found the gyros better than average, with fresh, tender meat, larger pieces than other places, with a tangy tzatziki sauce.
Our server said she likes the kabob (ground beef, lamb and pork on a skewer), which she said is pretty powerful. Looking forward to that next time.
5011 South Blvd. www.madgreekclt.com
Ios Greek Kitchen
This fairly small place in the EpiCentre uptown has pleasant blue accents, seating outdoors and is noisy inside.
I’d never heard of Mediterranean nachos ($9.50). Instead of putting layers on tortilla chips, they use fried pita as the base. Great idea. It’s topped with tomatoes, cucumber, pepperoncini, pickled onions, harissa queso, feta and gyros or chicken. A lovely mix of flavors. It’s big and reasonably priced for uptown. The harissa queso is a secret sauce.
Entrees and samplers are $10-$15 and the Greek salad is $9.50; adding a protein is $4 or $5. Sandwiches include gyros, falafel and lamb and are also $9.50, with a side.
My meat sampler was $12 and loaded with grilled marinated dark meat chicken, a ground lamb skewer, fries, salad (with balsamic dressing, not Greek), pita and two sauces: tzatziki and harissa (hot chili paste) aioli. The chicken was moist and distinct from the typical dried-out white meat. Harissa offered some needed spice for the skewer.
EpiCentre, 210 E. Trade St. www.ioskitchen.com
I’ve always enjoyed my visits to both locations of Ilios Noche, which bills itself as upscale Mediterranean.
You’ll find a range of typical Greek dishes and Greek-style on other items, such as meatballs and pork ribs.
I was disappointed their excellent moussaka was only on the dinner menu, but there’s a range of tapas, entrees ($9.50-$14), pastas, pizza, salads and sandwiches ($8.50-$12 for lamb, pork belly, chicken and falafel souvlaki, but no gyros) on the lunch menu.
Rea Village in south Charlotte; Quail Corner Shopping Center. xeniahospitality.com/ilios-noche
Nefelie’s Greek American Kitchen & Bar in Brevard Court is geared toward uptown workers.
They don’t offer moussaka or pastitsio, but it’s probably the only place uptown where you can get saganaki ($8). They didn’t go with a full flaming presentation, but as our server said, “It’s fried cheese!” The square of cheese has a crunch on the outside, and is served with pita.
Gyros ($9) came packed in a grilled pita with a tangy, yogurt-y tzatziki sauce, and the onions gave it some bite. The meat was chunkier and bigger than most places and had a char.
Grecian chicken tips ($10) with grilled onions and peppers with olives, lots of feta and fresh tomatoes came over rice, with two sides. You can also get beef or gyros tips. The medley of vegetables and Mediterranean spices offered plenty of surprises. Feta and olives provided acidity to contrast with the chicken and rice. Overall, strong flavors.
145 Brevard Court, www.nefelies.com/menu.html