I believe that I am cursed.
Oh, it isnt an every day curse, mind you. However, it does happen from time to time and it takes place every time I say the incantation that causes lightning strikes and earth tremors before the curse falls from the sky and showers me with its evil.
The magic words that invoke the curse are: I have a craving for something Mediterranean.
With a few exceptions possibly when I am holding a rabbits foot or I was just sprinkled with holy water I find that after saying those words, my experience in getting a decent Mediterranean meal is abysmal. A couple of weeks ago, it was Cyprus Pita Grill.
The other day, it was the Opa! Grill. Now, I freely admit that I should not have had high hopes for great Greek food from a place in a strip mall anchored by a Safeway. Then again, Cyclo Vietnamese in Chandler is in a strip mall anchored by a drug store, so you never know.
I had seen Opa! Grill several times before on my ventures into the remodeled Safeway at 48th Street and Indian School in East Phoenix. It is sandwiched between a dry cleaner and a pizza eatery. It was a very busy day in the lot when I pulled in for lunch and I had a bit of trouble finding a parking place, but I finally get one.
I walked into Opa! and noticed that the place was very clean, but also very Spartan. About eight tables are available inside, along with two tables outside. Patrons walk to the back of the space, order at the counter and then take a seat. So, I did just that.
The menu on the marquee overhead at the counter was fairly complex with lots of choices. Most of them were pita subs which was your choice of fillings or they had standard Greek fare like souvlaki. I looked around and most of the other patrons were eating pita subs, so I decided to go with the flow.
I decided to start off with the Hummus ($4.25), which the order taker assured me was top notch and delicious. For the main course, I would try the Gyro Pita Sub with Fries ($5.65). I also ordered a Diet Coke ($1.25). I paid my bill ($12.05 total including tax) and looked for a table. There was only one available, right near the counter. I picked up the community newspaper and read it while waiting for my order.
Only moments passed before my hummus arrived. In a wax paper lined red plastic basket, a Styrofoam bowl of hummus sat next to a round of pita bread that had been quartered. The hummus was served as two scoops and topped with thick slices of tomato and cucumber, and a couple of olives for show. The pita bread was warm and, oddly, had been brushed on each side with vegetable oil. Not olive oil; vegetable oil.
I took a piece of pita bread and picked up some of the hummus with it. I popped it into my mouth and was thoroughly underwhelmed. Despite the report from the order taker, this hummus wasnt even close to being top-notch on any level. The two scoops of hummus had the consistency of cement and were somewhat gritty in texture. There was no real flavor to it. There was also no olive oil drizzled on it.
The pita bread had the misfortune of being heated in a microwave oven because as soon as it cooled, my attempts to eat it mimicked eating beef jerky. About the only thing that stuck with me from the hummus was the vegetable oil from the pita bread that now coated my fingers.
Next up was the Gyro Pita Sandwich. It, too, came in a plastic basket. The sandwich lied flat, open-faced, but was in a parchment paper sleeve. A large mound of fries was in the same basket.
I picked up the sleeve to see what I was working with and couldnt see how I could get the sandwich out without destroying it, so I simply tore open the sleeve. I have to admit that I was disappointed with what I saw. The gyro meat looked fine, but the meat was covered with slices of red onion and very thick tomato slices. The tzaziki sauce was in a small plastic cup off to the side. I didnt want the tomatoes to dominate the sandwich, so I opted to pull them off. I poured on the sauce and then folded the whole thing over to pick it up.
As I did, I simply was beyond belief in what I saw. More of the vegetable oil (again, not olive oil) was draining out of the bottom of the sandwich. This wasnt a few drops here and there. This was substantial. It quickly formed a sizable puddle in the bottom of the basket, pulling some of the tzaziki sauce with it. I decided to take a bite of the sandwich after the oil had drained.
I am sure my sigh was heard throughout East Phoenix at my first taste of the sandwich. Terrible doesnt even begin to describe it. This was a waste. The pita bread had cooled during my wait for the Exxon Valdez sandwich to drain and had become shoe leather. The gyro meat had clearly been pre-sliced, stored and then reheated as it was oily on the outside, but dry on the inside. Someone in the kitchen had cooked up the gyro meat on the grill and used oil to prevent sticking. Inexcusable because part of what makes gyro meat so juicy and flavorful is that it rotates on a rotisserie unit and slices are cut fresh for each item made.
The red onions were pointless because they were not strong enough to enhance the taste of the meat, which is why gyros most often come with white or yellow onions. The tzaziki sauce was okay, but only because it cut through the oil. After four bites, I had had enough and simply abandoned the attempt to pretend the sandwich was decent.
There were at least the fries to console my growling stomach. However, the curse was still active and the fries turned out to be as bad as the sandwich. The problem was that the potatoes had not been thoroughly cooked and because of that, condensation had developed on the outside of the fries. They were room temperature and watery. Yuck.
I finished my drink and headed for the trash can to deposit the remains of my lunch. As I exited, the order taker bid me a good afternoon and told me to come back soon.
Um, no. Not until the Opa! Grill hires a decent cook or my curse is lifted.
My guess is the curse will be lifted first.
4730 East Indian School Road
Phoenix, AZ 85018
Notes: Parking can be scarce at lunchtime during the week.