Whenever we are in the mood for a short road trip in search of food, my bride and I usually head for Tarpon Springs. We love Greek food and in lieu of a long plane ride, Tarpon Springs, home to some truly great Greek cuisine, is a convenient culinary destination.
The Belle of Ballast Point and I have dined at a number of local eateries at or near the sponge docks, and yesterday (MLK birthday) we decided to try one we had never been to before, Costas Restaurant at 521 Athens Street. Costas bills itself as the restaurant where the Greeks go to eat.
We arrived a little after the noon hour and since we obviously had beaten the hordes of tourists clogging Dodecanese, we had our choice of a booth or table. We chose a booth with a window looking out on Athens. Menus were promptly presented and our drink orders taken.
During a trip to Greece some years ago, we acquired a taste for what my bride calls Janitor in a Drum. Personally, I think that retsina more closely resembles Pine-Sol, but that's just me. Retsina, to non-Greeks, is definitely an acquired taste with its distinctive sappy and turpentine like flavor.
Retsina is produced in almost all parts of Greece, but the best is considered that of Attica and should be served cold, as was our bottle of Kourtaki.
Retsina is ideal as an accompaniment for all types of Greek cuisine. Like most Greek beverages, it is undeniably at its best when combined with Greek foods. This is especially true if you are sitting out on a balcony over-looking the caldera on the island of Thíra while feasting on salty and delicious Greek olives.
Our server asked if we would like an appetizer. My bride who is a dainty diner said no, but I was intrigued by the Whole Salted Sardines in Olive Oil.
A couple of points here: first off, there was no olive oil except for what I added after the dish was served. And second, to identify this dish as "salted sardines," was a gross understatement.
I am aware that the Greeks pack sardines in salt as a preservative, but normally the sardines are washed before service. These were not! They were salty to the point of being inedible. I did manage to gag them down after trying to brush off the coarse salt, but they were still awful. Olive oil and retsina could not save them.
An unremarkable house salad that came with my entree helped clear away some of the salty taste, but just barely.
Speaking of salad, my bride decided on the Tarpon Springs version of a Greek salad, the one with a glob of potato salad that we never experienced while in Greece.
The Belle commented later that this was not a particularly memorable salad. Actually, said she, "Your home-made Greek salad recipe with potato salad from Publix is much better." Not a glowing endorsement for Costas, but certainly a culinary atta-boy for me.
In addition to the Greek salad, the Belle had a delightful Gyro Sandwich - slices of lamb and beef wrapped in pita bread with onions, tomatoes, and tzatziki sauce. This gyro was huge and delicious. She couldn't finish it, so it came home with us and I am enjoying it now as I type.
I was torn between having a couple of appetizers or the Costas Seafood Feast. The feast was a combination of broiled octopus, fried smelts, and fried squid served with rice, fries or vegetable. I chose the feast because it came with the octopus and smelts and squid. There was a ton of food on that platter, but way more smelts and squid than my favorite, octopus.
I am not sure that Costas is the place where Greeks go to eat. There were way more tourists and many that we saw had simply ordered a hamburger with fries, but the experience wasn't bad and the prices were very reasonable. All of our food and wine came to $52.38. We added 20% for our server.
I do not envision a return visit.