Well, I found a post on last year's festival when I was checking out talk about Tino's Greek Cafe. Been to both in the last week, so I figured I should give my two cents!
ST. ELIAS: I was excited by the talk of Eritrean food in last year's thread, and looking forward to paying too much for wine by the glass (2 year old son - don't do bottles right now). I was with some visiting relatives who find feta to be unpleasantly exotic, soooo....three beef souvlaki/shish ka-bob plates and one Mediterranean sampler plate.
Beef was nice, tangy marinade and crispy charred edges. Came with 1/2 a piece of great, big, fluffy pita, a tiny dollop of hummus and a squirt of tzatziki. Not exciting, just the way my inlaws like it.
The Mediterranean plate held the best dolmades I have ever, ever had - consider this a plea for a recipe (I know, another board.)! They were small, the grape leaves were a deep deep green and had an amazing pop - they must have been wrapped expertly. They had chopped kalamata olives and rice inside, an amazing proportional balance. Exquisite. My toddler and I fought for the last bite. The rest was OK - not great. Kibbeh, said it was lamb, could have been any ground meat with tepid spices...all at the center of a fried ball of what must have been falafel. Green beans with ground beef - fine...the beans were too soft for me, but the meat made them palatable to my son, so he had some veggies tonight. Tabbouleh seemed to be bereft of bulgur...lots of tomato, parsley...actually quite refreshing with the fried kibbeh and the meaty green beans. Hummus - a little too lemony, but good. Rice pilaf was bland but seemed homemade. $12.00??? Yikes.
(Last year everyone got into a discussion on the wine price per glass and the price per bottle and I am here to tell you that the bottle is the way to go...those glasses were THIMBLES! $4.00 for a thimble, $15.00 for probably 10 thimbles. My son will be three next year...maybe....)
One more thing - I got the tiropetes and spanokopita...there were huge lines for everything but this, and I had left over food tickets, so...the tiropetes were a little greasy in the phyllo crust, but the feta and herb filling had a great balance of tang and savory. I haven't tried the spanokopita yet...that spinach thing...but they look amazing.
Anyway - we got to dance in a circle, hear a bouzouki, jump in a mini-moonwalk, and taste some fun stuff. It was a nice evening.
TINO'S: We were thrilled, in our SW Austin outpost, to find that Tino's was moving in to the space Austin's Pizza abdicated. Didn't know what to expect... but it was a nice pleasant surprise to the 'hood. No ambience...this is a eat-n-run place, cafeteria style. My hubby and I decided to each get a meat & three sides plate (he's not a hound, but he supports my hounding) and split with the little guy.
First of all, despite what their menu says, both soup and salad seem to come with these meals. Not for take-out, but for eat-in.
The soups were wonderful! The lemon chicken was a great light chicken stock, tender little chunks of meat, and the lemon was pronounced but not puckery - really nice. The lentil soup was blended, and spicy....so it was a wonderful velvety potage with an after-bite of heat...really good! The salads were small mounds of romaine ribbons, with fresh tomatoes and cucumber...topped with feta crumbles and their creamy garlicky dressing. Nice, but some of the cafeteria workers can be quite liberal with it...next time, dressing on the side.
Plate 1 had chicken, hummos, steamed veggies, falafel. Chicken - gooood, juicy breast meat, cut off the vertical rotisserie, marinated, crispy edges, nice. Hummos - mmmmm......actually, might call it perfect, with a prounounced flavor of extra virgin olive oil. Steamed veggies, NEVER AGAIN...cauliflower, broccoli and carrots terribly overcooked and sitting in an oily steam bath...BLECH. Falafel, weirdly exciting on our first visit...light, freshly fried, the texture was a nice blend of crispy exterior to cushy interior. On our next visit it was plebian....just tasted fried.
Plate 2 had kebab meat, mashed potatoes, meatball in tomato sauce, and spanakopita. Kebab (gyro) meat - good crusty bits, nicely present flavor of lamb, good. Mashed potatoes....a counterpart to the nasty veggies I will never order again. Meatball -nice...tomato sauce was mellow but herby and good, meatball was fluffy...weird to have a big hunk of meat as a side dish, but OK! Spanokopita....just looking at the ones I brought home from St. Elias...even if at the moment I'm off my spinach, I can see that phyllo does not benefit from the steam table... pass on this.
Funny how you stumble into a certain ethnic cuisine for a while....I think we will be checking out the other Greek offerings discussed here on CH. And I have it in my mind to find out more about neighborhood offerings...
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