Festival of Greece partial report
- Marc Wallace
(partial report since I didn't try all 30 options!)
Being currently employment-challenged, my SO and I headed to the Festival of Greece this morning, taking advantage of the free admission (until 4pm).
There weren't a lot of non-food booths, but that's okay, we were there for the food. Food was scattered around, although there was one "dining room" (on the left as you enter) that seemed to have all the offerings. Good views if you perch on the wall on the west (left) side.
We started out with a gyro ($5). The tzatsiki on it was very good, but the gyro meat itself wasn't impressive. This booth also had the longest lines of all (probably because of the recognizable food name!).
Followed up with some great spanakopita (filo bread filled with spinach and feta), $3. Definitely worth it; this was probably the best food we tried.
Followed up with loukaniko (grilled greek sausage wrapped in pita, mustard and lemon optional), $4. Good, but the suggestion at the booth was that it truly excelled if one went back to the gyro booth and added a side of tzatsiki to it... makes one wonder why they didn't offer it at the loukaniko booth!
Souvlaki ($3) was tasty, but minimal -- just a skewer with chicken or pork bits that was grilled. Not the most amazing flavor, but not bad.
The lamb chops weren't ready yet (we got there around noon, it had just been open an hour). As we left they were serving (3 chops and bread for $8, not bad), but we were full. Nor were the loukoumades (think "donut holes") ready, they were having mechanical problems.
Other offerings were souvlaki ($3), calamari ($6), lamb sandwiches (at $8, didn't look worth it). The dining room had a lot of other options including dolmates ($2), tourlou ($5? not sure.. a vegetarian stew), kalamari olives ($1), and other larger traditional dishes -- but had a very long line.
Drinks were disappointing. Wine $5, beer $4, water $2. I think there were greek coffee options, too. I'd suggest bringing your own drinks. No corkage fee! ;-)
Food seemed pricy given the small portions, but it's fun wandering around and sampling. Not haut cuisine, but given the sparsity of Greek options in the Oakland area, it was a lot of fun.
Parking is an issue. Coming from 580, I'd suggest turning off at Tiffin (the last through cross street before the cathedral) as all of the lots were full, even at the opening time on Friday! There are also shuttles every 15 mins or so to several nearby parking areas.
Fri-Sat 11-11, Sun 11-9. Most food spots shut down at 10pm (says the sausage booth guy). Dancing and music in the evenings.
I stopped by the Festival on the way home for take out food. At 5:00 lines were minimal but in previous years I've stood in lines for ages closer to dinnertime. So stop at the bar first (in the back) to make your wait more enjoyable.
Actually stop at one of the token booths first--they're in the front near the entrance. Tokens are $1 each. Payment can be very confusing from one food booth to another. Some would take cash. Some required exact change. Some took tokens only. But I think all booths take tokens.
Stopped by the dining room Mark mentioned first and picked up Greek salad and pastisio and pork souvlakia. The salad was ok, pork was dried out, pastisio excellent. Lots of other options.
Next picked up tiropita and spanokopita (have their own booth)--delicious! Tiropita was the richest I've ever had. Next stop--gyros--ok, nothing to write home about. Wish I had read Mark's post before I arrived. What I really wanted was part of the gorgeous whole lamb on the spit in the back. But I was too early. I could reserve a plate and come back at 6:00 to get it. And I was told there are only 30 plates. So you'll have to plan ahead to score the lamb.
Tshirts available for sale that answer recent question on the general food board: "gyro: yee-ro".
If you want to try Greek restaurant on Piedmont that Alexandra reviewed, "Simply Greek", look for blue 10% off coupons at booths in the back.
The atmosphere is fun, great music and dancing later in the evening, wonderful people watching, spectacular view, parking nonexistent but a shuttle is available (not sure about logistics).
Definitely worth a visit. Where else are you going to get home cooked Greek food?
Figuring some of my $8.00 would make it to a good cause and I could declare it on my income tax,
I ponied up for the lamb sandwich. It was made with
well done thin slices of grilled lamb and a delicious
herb blend which was keeping warm in a bath of olive
oil and lemon juice. The olive oil and lemon bath
really made the meat moist and juicy. It was really
good. The whole lamb grilling over the spit smelled
really good unlike ones I have seen in Greece, but
at $15, it didn't seem worth it. The prices of drinks have gone up since the last visit, but I thought the retsina was better quality as well. Everybody who hasn't had it should try it once. Wine aged in pine. It can taste like pine sol, but its an experience. $5.
I also had one of the grilled sausages in pita, and squeezed a lemon wedge on it. I was out of tokens
and didn't want to hassle getting a side of tsatziki.
Big mistake, tasty sausage, but the pita was too dry
I had a look in the dining room, but nothing grabbed