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More Disappointment in Greek Town - MEGAS was awful

  • d

Here I go again taking time from my day to write about the bad food of Toronto. Oh how I would love to write something really positive after having enjoyed a tasty meal!

Ventured out to the Danforth today for simple Greek. Hit Megas and what a mistake. The bread, which appeared homemade, was about the best thing.. oh, any my tea was ok too.. they even replaced the bag with a new one upon refil without charging me... so heck, there are two positives! The Saganaki was so so at best, salty and obviously hot due to the flames.. but overall, indescript. The salads which came with our Souvlaki were awful - zero taste, bad tomatoes, (i know, i know, it's November) and a creamy and tastelss warm dressing that was hardly worth eating. The amount of feta (again, tasteless) was hardly worth putting on the salad. Move on to the main chicken souvlaki dinner: chicken, potatoes, rice and tztzaki (sp) .. all completely void of flavor. Another waste of 45 bucks. And to think, all we wanted today was yummy and tasty, fresh greek food.

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  1. Well, what are you doing ordering souvlaki at Megas? The strength at Megas is the mezedes - tapas. Great octopus, dips, dolmades, horta, etc. Order a table full of those, and you won't be able to think about souvlaki.

    Saganaki is a dish that was invented in North America for tourists. It's nondescript at the best of times.

    1 Reply
    1. re: estragon

      I beg to differ. Saganaki can be great when it is done with a flavourful and rich cheese. Just don't let anyone pass off saganaki made with the Krinos brand processed 'saganaki cheese'. I like the version at Pappas made with kefalotyri (rather than kefalograviera or vlahotyri).

    2. I tend to agree that Megas is not worth the money. I tried it for the first time last night and was greatly disappointed. The only thing that was half decent were the mussels in tomato sauce with fresh herbs. The bread they serve is grilled toast with hummus. For the main I had the Jumbo Quails marinated in herbs & spices. The quails, while finicky to eat, tasted fine, but they were served with tasteless frozen vegetables that had clearly been bowled because they were very watery. The potatoes had no seasoning to them so they were very bland. I am not sure what their other dishes are like, but with so many restaurants in Greek town, Megas is not worth trying again.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Penguin_Lani

        Megas has some good offerings and the salads are normally very good, not so much the vegetables (often the case on the danforth). I have never had Quail that wasnt finnicky to eat nor are greek potatoes normally very seasoned. I agree that Mezes is better than Megas and Pantheon is better than those, but they are different experiences. Megas does have excellent chicken souvlaki that is never dried out in my experience. Their dips are also very good.

        1. re: deelicious

          Here I go again with another post about how it used to be. Back about 10 years ago, Megas was quite good. We would alternate between there and Avli, hitting each about every 2 months. We hadn't been there for a few years as we started eating at Pantheon a few years back. Last February, a friend was celebrating her birthday at Megas. I knew there were better choices but figured it couldn't be too bad as it was once quite good. All eight of us were just shocked at the bad service and really bad food. I can't remember all the details as it was a year ago, but let's say it was the worst meal I ever had in Greektown, and I won't be back for a re-run. It's too bad that so many of the places that had decent food 10 years ago are not even worth going to if they offered free dinners.

          Maybe someone should open a good Indian restaurant in the area. I know there is one but it's not as good as what it was back in the 80's either.

      2. Next time you're down on the Danforth, give Mezes (456 Danforth Ave.) a try. It's relatively close to Megas and the food is much better IMHO. We often order the Zinnis Rice Special ($14.95) and Agean Fare (chicken, beef flambeed in Brandy: $14.95). The calamari appetizer is to die for and really hits the spot when you get that craving for it.

        1. "Greek Town" has become a joke. It was once a home away from home for expats fleeing the junta, and even Papandreau hung out there. The food was tasty and cheap, if not exactly sophisticated, and the welcome was warm.The restaurants were augmented by some great late night coffee houses with live entertainment. I loved the area. There weren't many restaurants then, and most were open all night. I used to eat at Strouga (dirt cheap), Omomia (whole lambs turning on a spit in the window), Delphi (great souvlaki), and Odyssey & Ellas (a bit fancier). Others liked Astoria (which served mainly pork). A bit later came Patri's, The Palace, and - eventually - the creative and once excellent Pan (originally owned by a Wasp real estate agent). But much of that was more than thirty years ago! And by the time Pan opened, most of the others were already starting to slide.

          More recently, our palates were satisfied only at Avli, but the quality tanked there some time in 2007. They've doubled their size but lost the soul in their cooking. The menu is still interesting, but we've had several poor meals in a row. I don't recommend it any more. I still recommend Zorba's for old school stews at very low prices, amazing lima beans, and extremely cheap (non-Greek) rotisserie chicken, but Zorba's may have most depressing ambiance on the strip.

          Pantheon is merely okay now. The Ouzeri has good days, but is very inconsistent. I don't find any of the others worth the bother. They all serve variations of a homogenized "Greek style" North American cuisine. Some are better than others and have the odd good dish, but nothing is reliable any more. I used to enjoy Megas, as did a large family-oriented Greek clientele, but I agree that it's not good any more. Mezes gets praised fairly often and is usually mobbed. I don't know why. We've been served literally inedible food there more than once. Patri's has a good meze platter and floods the area with coupons, which are great value at about seven bucks a meal, but most of their food is now blah. It's the same owners, but they don't care any more.

          We still go to the Danforth. It's convenient for us, has a great buzz, and is a fun place to spend a summer evening. But the Greek food mainly sucks.

          1. Interesting and disappointing Embee. I thought that Avli was good, but I have not been there for over a year. Mezes is so-so, but getting quite expensive. I don't believe the price increases are justified. But what is someone to do? Go to Montreal - Milos? That is a true Greek restaurant.

            I often lament this poor Greek representation here in Toronto. Is it restaurant owners' laziness or lack of interest? Is it our fault for continuing to accept this situation. Could it be poor Derek's request for "simple Greek"? Is that the problem. Hopefully we have matured away from thinking that every Greek eats meat on a stick with rice, potatoes and a bland salad - all on the same plate so that the cold salad cools the hot food, and the hot food warms the salad! What a concept. And yet people are willing to accept that.

            And yet Athens has 2 restaurants in the top 100 in the world.

            Being of Greek origin, many people ask me where is the best place for Greek food in Toronto. I always tell them, 401 east for a few hours to Montreal.

            Sorry, but I have given up on Greek food in Toronto.

            2 Replies
            1. re: peter2

              We've gone the other way. Souvlaki used to be just one of many options. Now it's the norm. A fresh grilled fish isn't worth $25 when the fish is a porgy that's $3 retail. Some of the meze comes from cans. Most of the fish and veg are frozen. And the Greek propensity to cook everything extremely well done works for lamb fricassee with artichokes, but not for chicken or lamb souvlaki or frozen fish fillets. I suppose much of our Greek population, when not partying, eats mainly at home. Mr Greek is no longer even a Greek restaurant, it's a "Mediterranean Grill".

              1. re: peter2

                Embee is just so right. There is no point in complaining about "Greektown" as it is these these days; it is what is, and that is not very good at all. But every time I walk along the Danforth my stomach still tries to pull me into the premises of the old Strouga of years ago where my wife and I ate wonderfully, as if it were a second home. One day, one of the waitresses started talking to me in Greek on the assumption that I must be Greek, we were there so often. She had me down as a Greek lawyer because I wore a suit and had black hair (I had hair then) but, no, I was just an immigrant from Ireland and England who loved the lamb, and my wife, from the southern US, loved the pastries. All that, and a beer or two, and change from ten bucks. But we are never going back to that, the Danforth is largely a tourist trap with occasional good spots (yes, Zorba despite the depresssing decor). For myself, I wander along in warmer weather and enjoy sitting outside at lunchtime with something simple and a few glasses of wine, but I sure lower my expectations when we go with friends who want to go there (almost any of the restaurants) in the evening; the occassional good meal, yes, but consistently, no.
                I wonder where a Greek emigree goes for a taste of home these days? Cooks at home?

              2. I am one of those Greeks. I just don't go unless someone specifically asks me to take them. Then I choose from Avli or Mezes. Now that Avli seems to have fallen, I lament that there are no real choices. I would agree with all of the sad comments from various writers. I just wonder why the Greek restaurants of Toronto are suffering with this low quality, no innovation etc. cuisine. All the other cuisines seem to have at least 1 restaurant which is trying to modernize - why not Greek restaurants?

                For my fix - Milos in Montreal (more of a seafood type place). Otherwise I go to Greece every couple of years (or try to), and I get my fix there. There are some very wonderful restaurants in Greece right now that are pushing the envelope on the innovation. The trend there at least is getting better.

                3 Replies
                1. re: peter2

                  Three tried to innovate to various degrees: Ouzeri, Avli, and Pan.

                  Ouzeri did traditional "Toronto Greek" dishes with better recipes, better cooking and greater style. But they lost their groove along the way (though they remain among the better ones, at least some of the time).

                  Avli has menu items unavailable anywhere else. But something went very wrong last year. If the problem was mainly stress caused by expansion, perhaps things will improve. It's too soon to tell. The chef who launched Ouzeri is consulting at Avli's new wine bar addition. He was a great cook, but with a reputation as a "bad boy" who would quickly lose his backers. There's some hope here.

                  Pan is the biggest disappointment of the bunch. It didn't look like a Greek island caricature, and their food was different, better than anyplace else, and sometimes exciting. In the mid nineties, I rated Pan one of the best restaurants in Toronto. I don't know whether subsequent owners didn't get the recipes or couldn't cook them, but I don't go near the place today.

                  There have been a few tries at a Milos-type of place, but all of them failed. I can't remember the names or speak to the quality, but there seemed a strong consensus that prices were excessive for the food. Although it isn't Greek, Chiado serves a similar cuisine.

                  1. re: embee

                    I've heard that Chiado is good...would you agree embee?

                    1. re: millygirl

                      I haven't been there all that recently. My past experiences have been good. They had meat dishes, but the specialty was very fresh fish, some of it unusual, simply prepared, very expensive, in formal surroundings (though you don't need to dress up). The adjacent wine bar is less formal and cheaper, but I believe that they serve the Chiado menu in addition to their own small plates.

                2. We were at Megas last night. Party of 4.
                  Arrived at about 6PM. Place was not busy at all.
                  I had to park the car at the Green P out back but the others raced ahead as they were freezing their patoots off.
                  When I arrived I was told that they already had to ask for a bread plate to be exchanged as one of them had a grease spot on it. blah...
                  Appetizers were: 3 assorted dips with pita - pita arrived slightly burned. Dips were humus, scordalia and one other, can't recall which but it was very distinctly tasting of mayo.
                  Also, shrimp saganaki - over cooked.
                  Bruschetta - so-so
                  We ordered 3 Chicken Souvlaki and 1 Beef Mousaka. The 3 Souvlaki came with a salad. This salad was odd actually for a Greek Restaurant. It was iceberg lettuce with a couple of 8th's of tomatoes. There was crumbled feta cheese on top in what resembled italian dressing. Not very tasty.
                  The potatoes served with the souvlaki were not hot, warm at best.
                  The Beef Mousaka was passable, yet the veggies served along side were very undercooked.
                  2 glasses of house wine, 6 beer, no dessert = 146.00 plus tip on top.
                  Service was poor, we were again begging for our cheque so we could get out. They do not accept debit cards btw.

                  On the other hand, the reason I went here was because one of the people in our party had a very good experience about 2 months ago.

                  So we caught them on perhaps an "off" night, but I really can't see myself going back here based on this experience and with all of the other choices in the area.

                  1. While it's not innovative by any means, I have to insist that Souvlaki Hut on Lakeshore in Mississauga serves up affordable souvlaki dinners better than any place I've been in Toronto, especially the Danforth.

                    They've been there for at least seven years now and haven't dropped in quality since. For under $20 you get a massive meal, with all the stereotypical trimmings: salad with a big heap of tangy feta, garlic toast, souvlaki of your choice, rice, potatoes, and a very garlicky and THICK (!) tzatziki. I'm a dedicated eater but leave this place absolutely stiff with food. The staff are very friendly and if they aren't too busy, they'll treat you to a plate of deep-fried pita drizzled with honey and cinnamon for dessert.

                    A class act, and a place I always stop when I'm out in the suburbs. The only real downside is the size of the place: it's tiny, with little room for sit-in meals. A group any bigger than two may have a hard time sitting down. Figures that most of their business is takeout. They also have another location up near the AMC on Winston Churchill, but I can't verify its quality.

                    1. Yup, the place is terrible. I think that's marg not butter in the little croc. Squid was charred beyond recognition and tough, tough, tough. Couldn't finish it. Potatoes were bland...spiceless....I don't even think they bothered with a dash of salt?! Never again. Oh yes, and way over-priced for what it is. Is there such a thing as authentic, and GOOD Greek food in Toronto?

                      9 Replies
                      1. re: singe

                        I am very curious as to the answer to the question of finding authentic good Greek food in town. I tell myself there must be more to Greek cuisine than bread, potatoes, rice, salad with feta and oil/vinegar, and some kind of protein choice, but I don't see it. Appetizers vary a bit between restaurants here, but as to the entree, same, same, same.

                        1. re: Pincus

                          Zorba's is different, and it is very good. However, this is low end Greek dining - essentially peasant food. Best on the menu, in my opinion, are the various lamb fricassees and (yes, really) the lima beans. They occasionally have whole lamb heads, complete with teeth, on display.

                            1. re: Dimbulb

                              No, we've been waffling because of several successive bad experiences at Avli and encounters with a strung out Aristedes twenty something years ago. However, the guy sure could cook, so we'll undoubtedly get there.

                              1. re: embee

                                It's worth the trip to Lambros, if my one visit is any indication of what they have to offer. I just called to make a reservation for tonight but only the AVLI half is open. :-(

                                Here is Amy Pataki's review: http://www.thestar.com/entertainment/...

                                One last thing, the 3 desserts I tasted at Lambros were all very good, Globe should buy them from here and serve them instead of the ones they offer.

                          1. re: Pincus

                            Part of the problem is the options most non-Greek Canadians choose to order over and over again. I have yet to see a home-cooked Greek or Greek-Canadian meal that involves bread, rice AND potato. It has become a staple in TO at least partly because that's what the non-Greek Canadian clientele want. Many Canadians heading to the Danforth want to feel full for $12.95.

                            If you're looking for authentic Greek in Toronto, start with a bowl of avgolemono soup, a plate of horta (boiled greens) or beets, and try ordering giouvetsi (orzo and meat casserole), yemista (stuffed vegetables) dolmades,or roast lamb, etc. as your main. Bakaliaros (cod) with beets and skordalia is another traditional option. I usually like to order the gigantes (broad beans in a dill and tomato sauce).

                            Souvlaki is considered fast food in Greece- this is something for bbqs, not standard Greek home cooking. If you don't want the rice and potato, let the restaurant know- they'll usually be happy to substitute salad or cooked vegetables. Try the maroulosalata (romaine with dill and green onions) instead of the iceberg lettuce with winter tomatoes and Canadian feta.

                            1. re: phoenikia

                              I agree, the restaurants are only giving the punters what they are screaming for. I will try asking nicely for substitutions next time I'm out, thanks for your suggestions.

                              As for Zorba's, I think I've been there. They always have a choice of side dishes at the front, including a bean dish. I will head back there and see if I can get something a little less repetitive. Thanks for the reminder!

                              1. re: phoenikia

                                Well phoenikia, we've never been able to agree about Greek bakeries :-)

                                I'm still game to give your restaurant recommendations a try. Can you suggest a place(s) that make your suggestion(s) well? I don't order souvlaki when I want Greek food, but I've still been pretty consistently disappointed over the past few years.

                                Most of the bakaliaros I've sampled recently has been variously too salty and/or too dry. Yiouvetsi has been bland (as in tasteless). Avgolemono has been variously powered stock, overly starchy and/or lacking any lemon flavour as served. Dolmades have tasted canned. Even the roast potatoes don't taste roasted anymore.

                                My wife, who lived in Greece for several years, argees with your comments about souvlaki - she calls it street food. However, in her experience (in the Dodecanese), any meal without bread, horiatiki, and half a pack of cigarettes, and afternoon/evening meals without potatoes and rice, were very unusual.


                                1. re: embee

                                  Hi Embee,
                                  When I travelled in Greece in the fall, I didn't have rice and potato at any of my meal, unless a side of potato was ordered in addition to my stuffed vegetables. Usually, we ended up ordering mezedes, which gives the diner more control over the starches served.

                                  I have to admit, I get great giouvetsi at home so I don't order it in restaurants. I would have thought Avli would have had a half-decent version, but I haven't tried it.

                                  Here are my recs for specific dishes, based on visits in the last 6 months:

                                  Kalyvia has tasty, non-canned dolmades. They are bite-sized, so the grapeleaf to meat/rice ratio is very high. The keftedes(meatballs) are also quite good.

                                  Avgolemono is probably the best at Zorba's (it can be hit and miss), but make sure you add more lemon. It's not as thick (as in not enough egg) as I like, and I haven't found a good restaurant version on the Danforth. The Village Cafe in London (which has closed) used to have a good version. The last bowl I had at Avli tasted funny. When I do order avgolemono, I make a point of asking for extra lemon on the side, so I can fix it up a little at the table.

                                  I used to stay away from Mezes because it looked more style than substance, but I found my last meal there to be very good. There was a lot of care taken in the seasoning of the different dishes. Their gigantes were good, as were the fasolakia (green beans in olive oil and lemon) Everything I ordered was very fresh tasting.

                                  The best spanakopita used to be at Avli, but I haven't ordered it for a while. To my surprise, Myth serves a very good version of Spanakopita. I've had their spanakopita at several parties, and I've always found it to be to my taste. Not too much filo, and not too much feta, and they take the time to add dill, and possibly other greens. The spanakopita at Astoria is terrible- too much filo, not enough butter, and not enough filling.

                                  I rarely order bakaliaros because I rarely order seafood in Toronto these days. Have you tried the version at Kalyvia? I haven't tried it, but I remember seeing a friend (who eats out a lot) order it there.

                                  I haven't had any properly roasted potatoes on the Danforth in recent memory, but if I find any, I'll let you know.

                                  While horiatiki is common in Greece, it is just as common to order salads without the cheese- often just tomato and cucumber or various lettuce salads (in the spring and fall, when lettuce is more readily available in Greece). Cabbage salad is also common in Greece, but I have yet to see it on the Danforth. In Toronto, the best horiatiki I have had lately was at Messini during the summer ( I actually do not like their gyros, but their salads are good). I don't order horiatiki when tomatoes are out of season.

                                  While I've recommended what I've enjoyed at certain restaurants, by no means am I saying any of these restaurants will do every dish well. I haven't found any restaurants in Toronto to be at the level of Molyvos or Milos where everything tastes good.

                                  I haven't tried Ikaros at 2029 Yonge, north of Yonge and Davisville yet, but I wonder if that might be a place that is taking great care in preparing things like roasted potatoes and avgolemono since they are still quite new and would want to be attracting new clientele. Their menu mentions they make their avgolemono daily and that they use Ontario lamb. Click http://www.ikaros.ca/ to see their lunch, dinner and take-out menus.