According to Grecian lore, Mount Olympus was the mountain where their gods lived, radiant in a shining palace unseen by mere mortals. The mythology of the Greek gods and their escapades has captured most of the world's imagination over time. Now, many of us take reference to these gods and their home for granted, from shopping for T-shirts at a store called Gaea (the Greek goddess of Earth) to visiting friends in the neighborhood bearing the name of Mount Olympus. Even references to the Olympic games themselves harken back to the tales of Zeus and his well-known family.
It should not have come as much of a surprise then that my 10-year-old, deep into reading about the Greek gods, should spot the Olympian restaurant on 700 East just south of 2100 South and beg for a Greek dinner. While other ethnic restaurants are gaining a bigger share of the dining out scene all the time, the traditions and hard work of Greek restaurateurs across the valley have served many a generous meal to hungry customers since the turn of the century.Upon entering the Olympian's clean and brightly lit interior, the aromas of familiar Greek sea-son-ings wafted from the kitchen. While the menu is made up of a lengthy list of American favorites, such as hamburgers, French dip and club sandwiches, as well as chicken fried steak, seafood, salads and pasta dishes, we were drawn to three items with a definite Greek flair.
The gyro sandwich ($4.99) was thin slices of pressed grilled lamb rolled in a large thick pita bread, covered with sliced onions, lettuce and tsatziki, or yogurt cucumber sauce. A large serving of steak french fries also comes with the platter along with a choice of soup or salad. The green salad was also ample, the tomato garlic house dressing a pleasant addition; the soup, a hearty ham and navy bean. We were sorry to hear that we would have to return on Sunday, the only night avgolemono, or egg lemon soup, is served.
The Greek plate or mezethakia ($8.99) includes a variety of Greek favorites that are meant to serve as an appetizer plate. It could easily serve four with generous amounts of grilled marinated cubes of pork; a Greek salad consisting of tomatoes, cucumbers, Bermuda onion, green pepper, Greek olives and bits of feta cheese; several dolmathes; and Greek meatballs. The pork was especially good, its flavor characterized by the lemon, oregano and garlic seasonings of the marinade.
The pastitio ($6.59) was another hefty serving. This Greek version of lasagna, adapted when Italy ruled many of the Greek islands, was layers of long macaroni noodles, ground meat, thick tomato sauce with just hints of cinnamon and nutmeg, and topped with a rich cheese custard. While the noodles were just a bit more than al dente, it was still very good. The only real disappointment was one of the evening specials, an 8-ounce steak dinner for $6.99. The meat was thin and overcooked.
Each of the dinners includes a large sesame seed dinner roll. A homemade baklava and tapioca pudding, in place of a more traditional rice pudding (each were $1.50), were good. Other desserts include homemade pie, New York- style cheese cake and ice cream.
Other menu items of interest include a lengthy list of big breakfast platters with just about every kind of choice from Belgium waffles to eggs Benedict. Dinner specialties such as fried chicken, fish and chips, Greek spaghetti with feta and parmesan, teriyaki chicken, pork chops and broiled halibut round out the fare.
The Olympian Restaurant might not reach Olympian culinary heights, but its predictable fare, prompt and personable service, and pleasant atmosphere should please just about any palate.
Rating: * * *
Olympian Restaurant, 2181 S. 700 East, 487-1407. Open 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; until 11 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Accepts check with guarantee card and major credit cards. Catering also available.