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Restaurants & Bars 23

GREEK GOLD MINE - OC

OC Mutt | Aug 25, 2004 12:34 AM

The Greek Island Grill in Costa Mesa/Santa Ana is the best Greek food in the entire Orange County and Los Angeles area. I’ve tried many Greek places and until now, always walked away either disappointed by mediocrity or feeling ripped off. Arrogant pricing and paltry portions seemed to be the Greek norm, but not any more. The Greek Island Grille (for some reason unknown to me, the full name is The Whole Pita Greek Island Grille) is a charming new family run little hole in the wall “bistro” on the northwest corner of Sunflower and Bristol in the Costa Mesa Metro area - across from South Coast Plaza (Maggiano’s) in a strange lego shaped mini mall type structure it shares with a sushi restaurant, Carl’s Junior, Tacos and Co. Golden Spoon and a Vietnamese place. In an almost literary twist of fate, ominously looming across the street on Bristol is an outlet of that dreadful chain Daphne’s – the soulless McDonalds-like antithesis of the Greek Island Grill. You can either eat inside or outside and it has a surprisingly warm inviting comfortable atmosphere for an order at the counter, fill your own soda place, yet it’s not a dive - they bring your cooked-to-order food to your table on real plates with real silverware. The portions are very generous, bordering on gigantic. The quality is the best I’ve had outside of Greece itself, and the prices are very UN-Greek (no ten dollar servings of Tzadziki doled out with an eyedropper or 8 dollar orders of pita here). The bifteki (small ground beef patties with Greek seasoning) is my personal favorite and is nothing short of addictive, the $7.95 Moussaka spectacular, and the mountainous $5.95 Santorini bowls are a welcome new innovation yet still very Greek addition to this cuisine – seasoned white beans, Greek rice, tomato, and your choice of chicken, shrimp, gyro, bifteki, or shrimp (extra charge). They also serve Taverna Platters, Gyros, a wonderful Greek Salad served with roasted red peppers, olives, onions, tomato, feta (I’m reasonably certain I’ve seen some zucchini in there as well) and a perfect balsamic vinaigrette along with many more delicious things I look forward to trying if I can ever get myself to forgo biftetki for a night. It might take a few moments to figure out the menu with all of its combinations and permutations while standing at the counter but it’s well worth it.

The definitive review comes from my incredibly picky native Greek stepmother. During her recent visit to California, on two consecutive nights we ate at Papadakis and then the Greek Island Grill. Hands down, the Greek Island Grill was the winner. It was no contest and an added bonus is that you don’t have to set foot in San Pedro. It’s also 1/5 the price. She said the melitzanosalata (roasted eggplant dip with hummus) was as good as she’s had anywhere, and she also loved the bifteki even after skeptically ordering it while loudly proclaiming she hasn’t "had decent bifteki since moving to America”. The follwoing morning, my incredibly picky, meticulously discerning when it comes to all things Greek stepmother from Thessaloniki shocked us even further by suggesting we return AGAIN for lunch the following day – it was that good. The staff is very astonishingly friendly, and when Nick is behind the counter, he might give you a Greek yogurt, walnut, cinnamon and honey dessert on the house if he recognizes you as a repeat visitor. The atmosphere is comfortable and warm, the food amazing, the portions overflowing, and the prices are minuscule. As much as I’d like to keep the place a secret for selfish reasons, I’d rather stick myself in the thigh with a shish kebab than to ever set foot in Daphne’s McGreek again. Oh, one more thing, the seasoned fries are spectacular. Try dipping them in Tzadziki. The Greek Island Grille is not fancy, but it’s the kind of comfortable local gold mine you can patronize as a very satisfied regular. My wife and I call the Greek Island Grille “once a week Greek.”.

The Whole Pita Greek Island Grille
3940 S. Bristol Street. #113
Santa Ana, CA 92704
714-708-3000

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