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Anyone familiar with Olga's Kitchen?

I'm having a moment of nostalgia remembering eating here with my dad when I was maybe 10. They serve their version of gyros (copious amounts of melted cheese are involved) and I loved getting the original Olga with a side of curly fries and a small Greek salad.

One day we went to the mall in PA, where the restaurant was located, for dinner and the store was gone. Turns out they're a Michigan-based company and the PA store wasn't doing so well so they closed. Years later when I was in college I actually sent an email to the company via their Web site asking if they had any plans to open another location on the East coast and I got a reply saying they were only focusing on their Michigan base. They did, however, have a store in Thousand Oaks, CA. My father lives in CA and the last time I was out there I asked him to drive me and my husband to Thousand Oaks so we could eat at Olga's. The food wasn't quite as good as I remember, but it was still fun to take a trip down memory lane.

Anyone else ever eat at this chain? I just checked their Web site and it looks like the Thousand Oaks location is no more, but they do have a store in Ohio and two in Illinois.

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  1. they went through some tough times in the 90's but are looking to grow again. http://goliath.ecnext.com/coms2/gi_01...

    they have about 25 stores in michigan, many of which are in malls.

    i used to eat at the ren-cen location when i worked there in 1992. i liked the curly fries but i think that there gyros are mediocre and over priced. much better quality and value at anyone of the 10,000 coney islands around town.

    1. I'm from Michigan, and Olga's is one of those childhood comfort foods that I try to indulge in when I visit the folks (we pick it up to go on the way from the airport); I get the 3-cheese Olga, which includes the meat plus lots of cheese and that oh-so-special sauce. Authentic - not in the least. But tasty in its own way.

      1. I'm worked in Birmingham at the Village Green back in the 1970's and would go to the original Olga's in the
        Continental Market every week for a souvlaki. Olga worked the counter with her sons...strictly a family affair. The pita was the best. I make it back to Detroit once or twice a year and always try to stop by an Olga's. The old Village Green in Birmingham where I worked is now an Olga's...or I go to the one in Livonia at the mall. Overall they aren't quite as good...however the pita bread is still freshly made and delish!

        1. Olga's for breakfast- in Ann Arbor, State Street...same block as State Street Theater..in the 70's..fresh, hot pitas...

          1. God, I miss Olga's. I grew up in Michigan and went there all the time. I loved the Olga bread and the Greek Salad. I still crave the Snackers with the cheese spread. I'll have to make a point to go there when I go home for Christmas.

            1. I have not been there for awhile but used to frequent the Birmingham location and now they have one on Big Beaver in Troy. The break ROCKS, the greek salads are great, and the pseudo-gyros are the best.

              As my main man James Todd Smith III says, "Don't call it a comeback, I've been here for years"

              1. I've been to the location in Thousand Oaks. It used to be in the Oaks Mall, but I heard they lost their lease. As other posters have stated the bread is amazing and the greek salad. I also remember a really good soup, similar to the lemon soup from Daphne's.

                1. re: the Ann Arbor Olga's

                  I probably saw you there, Cathy--as an impoverished University Cellar worker, Olga's was squarely in my "price-point", as the youths today say. :) and even though they paled next to the amazing gyros that the Parthenon (Main/Liberty) served, I useta love Olga's fiercely. (noticed they've got one out at Briarwood now...when I go back for the next Pioneer High reunion or whatever, I'm there...!)

                  1. Wow, I am having serious flashbacks. I used to work at Jacobson's in B'ham and Olga's was a regular lunch spot. I wish I could order some to be overnighted to California.

                    1. I am flashing back to high school. I spent my high school years working at Olga's Kitchen in PA as a waitress. I was so sad when they closed. There aren't any close to PA. Loved the spinach pie and the salsds. The tuna olga with super cheese was really good too. Good memories, not the greatest food in the world, but alot better than the other chain resturants!

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: kop69

                        I know it's been awhile, but how funny! That's the one I used to go with my father, which means I might have been one of your customers. I loved that place.

                      2. I live in Maryland and when I was in college back in the early 80s there was an Olga's Kitchen at Hunt Valley Mall that I loved especially the salad and bread.....then after my DH and I married they also opened one near where we lived in Gaithersburg, MD at Lakeforest Mall that we used to frequent....definitely remember them fondly and wish they would return.

                        1. mmmm....Olga's......
                          I love Olga's and I haven't been there in years. Their version of the gyro was not quite a gyro but also not something that anyone else can replicate. My only beef with them is that they got quite overpriced for what you got at one point. That may have been during their tough times in the 90s.

                          1. I love Olga's! I used to work across the street in the Birmingham Theatre building in the 70's. Three-cheese and salad. I liked their spinach pies, too. FYI, They are opening a new one in Ann Arbor, on the corner of Green & Plymouth Rds.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: houndgirl

                              Hey houndgirl,
                              I worked at the Birmingham Theater when it was a theater in the late 70's that was my first real job. I still go back to Olga's right there in town when I come back to MI I live in NC now. I grew up in Birmingham. I went to Marion High.

                            2. I take great comfort that the Olga's I grew up with, the West Bloomfield, Mi location that was withing very short wlaking distance for me, is still alive and well. The peasant soup is still outstanding. And the Olgas, not quite a gyro, rweater is so correct, but so good in their own way.
                              Olga's and Orange Julius made for quite the combo when Tel-Twelve was still around.

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: Fibber McGee

                                I moved to AZ from MI 7 years ago (grew up in Southfield) and have to ask . . . Tel-12 is gone? it was still there when i left.

                                1. re: mdepsmom

                                  The indoor mall is gone, but there is still a shopping center there. I don't think any of the original stores of Tel-Twelve are still part of the mix; lots of other things there, though. You may recall that the anchor stores (Crowley's, Montgomery Ward, Winkelman's) all closed permanently some time ago, so the mall just didn't flourish.

                                  Remember The Giving Tree?! Used to buy all my cards there, buy a shirt from the Limited, some foundation at Merle Norman, and top it off with dinner at Olga's or Rickshaw.

                                  1. re: amandaqtpie

                                    I don't remember Giving Tree. As a teenager, I used to shop at the Winkelman's there all the time, and Spencer's, and a friend and I would have lunch at the cafeteria (the name of which escapes me). I'm going back to MI for a visit in September and I am definitely adding Olga's to my list of places to hit while I am there.

                              2. My husband and I both grew up going to Olga's; it must have been cheaper then, because now we only go when we're really craving the salad or the fries, or when his sister is in town from AZ. It's definitely pricy for a "casual" lunch or dinner, but it's very good.

                                Their "gyro," as you call it, is the "Original Olga" on their menu; it does NOT have cheese on it (I suppose you could request it, but it's not part of the original sandwich).

                                I think their trademarks are their pita bread, salad dressing (and the salad itself, a sort of version of a Greek you'd find elsewhere), curly fries (much more delicious than those at other joints, IMO), and we can't forget the orange cream cooler!

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: amandaqtpie

                                  Finally, love for the orange creamsicle!

                                  And to the above posters regarding the State Street Olga's in Ann Arbor, when I was a wee lass (about 6 years old) my family ate there all the time. I did not like the bread at Olgas. Once, we were dumping our trays at the end of our meal when another patron asked my mom if I was going to finish my bread. She gave it up to him and I was shocked to my core that some stranger would ask for that. Now, after living in A2 for 15 years, it seems pretty tame, even if the dude who was asking was the crazy guy with 5 garbage bags of junk strapped to his bike outside, and a transistor radio on all the time. We still talk about it, although my mother swears it was only a hungry college student asking for it.

                                  Now I couldn't imagine giving up my olga bread to anyone. Sooo excited another Olga will be up on North Campus.

                                2. OK, all, I have been invited to an Olga's tomorrow. What should I order? I haven't eaten there for many years (and the last time I did, like several posters below, was at the Ann Arbor, MI, State St. location). I remember not liking the gyros, which I thought had a bizarre sweet flavor. Any other choices? Or is the gyros not sweet any more?

                                  6 Replies
                                  1. re: Jim M

                                    Do you think the meat in the gyros is sweet, or is the sweet, sweet bread? Either way, I personally don't like any of their sandwiches other than the Original Olga. Why not get spinach pie, peasant soup and a salad? All pretty good fare.

                                    1. re: charlesbois

                                      I've eaten periodically at Olga's since I was a U-M student (that much-missed location on State Street, right by the Frieze bldg where I had a lot of classes), and have never ever had anything except an Original--I like the sweet flavor, but realize YMMV.

                                      Second the spinach pie, salad, curly fries and fresh sqeezed lemonade.

                                      Also, for you Olga fans, the Olga bread and spinach pie is sold frozen at some local grocery stores--I've seen it at Hiller's and Kroger's. It's not quite the same as the restaurant but it'll do.

                                      1. re: coney with everything

                                        did you know the Frieze building has been since knocked down to make room for another dorm? I spent HOURS wiling away the time in the teeny computer lab there. Anyway, totally off-topic.

                                        I'm kinda wondering what Jim M had and if it was good or bad. The last time I ate at Olgas was in the Briarwood Mall and the service was horrible. food was ok, but nothing to write home about. I hope the one on North Campus will have its stuff together.

                                        1. re: charlesbois

                                          We went to Olga's on Grand River Avenue near Wixom Road, and I had peasant soup (a reasonably tasty and healthful lunch), zucchini fries (not so healthful but not heavy for a fried food and an enjoyable junk food dish), and part of my friend's Vegetable Olga (not so great; I didn't think the pea pods worked in a sandwich). It was a pleasant place for a chain and was crowded with people from nearby offices and factories. I'm not counting the days until I return, but I'd go again if I wanted a cheap lunch in the area.

                                          Hit the Java House Café in South Lyon on Pontiac Trail at 11 Mile to do some work on my way home--got crowded with students from the high school across the street when school let out, but a pleasant place to hang out in an area that doesn't have very many of them; reasonable cappuccino.

                                          1. re: Jim M

                                            cool Jim, thanks for the info. and ITA re the pea pods.

                                    2. re: Jim M

                                      If you like tuna, go w/ the tuna olga (cold). That was always my favorite thing. The spinach pie is great, too.

                                    3. Ann Arbor, Michigan newest Olga's Kitchen (Plymouth Road & Green) gets two thumbs down. I placed a takeout order for an Olga's Origianal Plus Meal on 8/8/08 around 1:00 PM and picked it up in short order. I walked back to my office accross the street and the sandwich and fries were cold. It is if the food was pre-made and allowed to sit around a while for a forthcoming order. This was a warm day and food contents were properly bagged and packed to retain heat. The sandwich had little warmth and the fries were gummy and chewy. The only upside to the meal is the Cole Slaw which was very good.

                                      I would rather go to the coney island accross the street.

                                      1. Before we moved to TX in 2003 there was one in the mall in Fairview Heights, IL. I am not sure if it is still there but it sure was yummy!

                                        1. I'm going back to MI in a few weeks and plan to have lunch at Olga's one day. Looked at their menu online and was disappointed to see they don't have the tuna olga anymore! That was my favorite :(

                                          1. When we were at UM (and went to the one on State by the Frieze building), we would have Olga's for breakfast almost every Sunday-eggs and cheese and sweet, hot, fresh bread. Perfect! I don't think we ever had a gyros Olga...

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: Cathy

                                              I also loved that Olga's by the Frieze bldg, although when I was in school the Olga lunch was a splurge (I was working my way through mostly). At the time the McD's by Nichols Arcade was still there, had actually just opened, and you could get a cheeseburger, small fries and small pop for just under $1.

                                              And I don't think I've ever had a non-original Olga!

                                              1. re: coney with everything

                                                Ah that McDonalds. Yes. Such wild architecture. It was said the City would not allow a 'traditional' stand alone to be built. Um, It was there in 1975...

                                                We would do Olga's for breakfast or walk to the Coop and Farmer's Market downtown on Saturdays...after donating plasma and getting that $20 for the week...

                                            2. Ahh, Olga's Kitchen. I worked at Olga's for about 1.5 years while in high school (Woodland Mall, Grand Rapids, MI). At the time (okay I'll date myself, it was '79-'80) Olga's was definitely something different from all the other mall chains. This was way before the Mediterranean diet was popular (outside the Mediterranean that is). I'm not trying to say that Olga's was in any way authentic but it was my first exposure to things like gyros, feta cheese and spinach pie.

                                              At Olga's I first learned how to properly steel a knife blade, and to really appreciate a good blade. You needed a very sharp blade to thinly slice the gyro meat as it cooked. I also learned to love, and hate, feta cheese. Love because of the way it tasted. Hate because of what we had to do to prep it for salads. We would get the feta as large blocks in five gallon buckets of a brine solution. We would have to crumble it up be hand spread it out on trays and leave it in the walk-in for several days to dry out. This process was repeated a couple of times successively crumbling the cheese into smaller sizes until it was properly dried. After doing this your hands would reek of feta and no amount of washing seemed to eliminate the odor.

                                              I also had the pleasure of meeting Olga herself once. Yes there really is an Olga, her name is Olga Loizon. She opened her first restaurant in Birmingham, MI. At the time I worked at Olga's (and met her) she had sold the business to its current corporate ownership but continued to do promotional appearances.

                                              There seems to be a lot of love in this thread for Olga's among Ann Arbor/UM people. I went to UM myself but honestly don't recall frequenting Olga's while I was there. Maybe they hadn't opened their locations near campus at that time.

                                              I think I need me some Olga fries.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: kmcarr

                                                Olga's was always my choice of place to go for my birthday. Every since my kids have been able to eat solid food (now 18 & 15 yrs old), it's their request as well. I live 45 minutes away from Olga's & would make special trips as much as possible to the nearest one (Franklin Park Mall, Toledo) I would only order the Open Face Mushroom Steak Monterey and a salad (with extra Feta.. Lol) The last time I drove 45 min only to find they no longer have the Mushroom Steak Monterey on the menu. :( They seemed to have cut their menu to a third of what it used to be & raised their prices considerably! Anyway, I absolutely loved the special creamy sauce on the Mushroom Steak Monterey! Do you happen to know how it was made? (FINGERS CROSSED). I crave it all the time and would love to be able to make it!!

                                              2. Yes, I am. It was originated by Olga Korbut, the gymnast.
                                                -BnF

                                                3 Replies
                                                1. re: Big N Fat

                                                  Please stop trying to pass off lies as jokes. They're not funny.

                                                  1. re: Fibber McGee

                                                    I think it's funny.....if you don't get it, just say so.

                                                  2. re: Big N Fat

                                                    Thought of the idea to start an Ogas while working out on the uneven bars.
                                                    -BnF

                                                  3. I grew up going to Olga's original restaurant in Birmingham, MI. I even worked there for a month in high school at one point. I think they have revamped their menu many times since their hay days. However, when I used to go I loved the broccoli soups, pita chips, greek salad, some type of fried chicken pita and spinach pie. Their bread was amazing, and I remember you could get the regular or JAFF (just about fat free )version--but definitely not calorie free. I'm glad I used to come here during my youth when calories didn't matter because knowing how fattening the food is now, I think the things I loved I wouldn't order.

                                                    Ahhh, I miss you Olga's!

                                                    1. I love love love Olga's. I remember my dad taking me to the one in Lansing Mall as a kid. We'd go every Sat afternoon and spend quality time together. Now i go myself every other week. I love the Olga burger, curly fries, peasant soup and the snackers. Plus they have my fave drink Vernors. True they are pricey but the olga card does help specially if you go on double or triple coupon days.

                                                      1. There's something about the bread at Olga's that sets it apart from other pitas. A slight sweetness and softness, not the same old dry  cardboard-like texture of "authentic" pitas. Maybe that's why so many kids and teens prefer it. I know I've always thought of pita as construction paper without the color. That is until I had an Olga's. A definite improvement.
                                                        All the die-hard Greek food fanatics are probably rolling their eyes and cursing me and my descendents, wondering "Who does this guy think he is? What does he know?" I know what I like, that's all. I'll take sweet bread over cardboard any day.
                                                        Also, I don't think Olga's in it's current form, is meant to be authentic Greek cuisine. Maybe when it first started in downtown Birmingham, but not now. It is what it is. Good food, generous portions, great variety, decent kid's menu, Orange cream coolers, moderate prices. What else can I say? I'm going to Olga's. 

                                                        5 Replies
                                                        1. re: otisf

                                                          No, it was not intended to be traditional Greek cuisine.. Olga came up with the twists to attract the American palette.. and it worked! Love 'em!

                                                          I used to goto Olga's at Lakeside Mall in Sterling Hts all the time when I lived there, but have since moved to Florida.. I have learned to clone the delicious originals.. the bread recipe (or a close version anyhow) is all over the net. The sauce? Someone who worked there once told me it was equal parts sour cream and plain yogurt.. however, many sites on the net say its just plain yogurt.. anyone know for sure?

                                                          1. re: steve in FL

                                                            Steve,

                                                            I worked at Olga's (Woodland Mall, Grand Rapids MI) way back in '79-'80. The Olga sauce is (or at least was) plain yogurt thinned out with a little bit of water. To prepare a batch for use, some plain yogurt from a 5 gal bucket was placed in one of those rectangular aluminum containers used in restaurants and then you would slowly add water while vigorously mixing with a spoon until the desired consistency was reached.

                                                            See my post upthread for what we had to do to prepare the feta cheese for the salad.

                                                            1. re: kmcarr

                                                              I used to work at Olga's during high school in the 90s. The bread was so good because they drenched it in oil that was slightly seasoned. That bread was so so fattening but also so so good. My favorite meal was always a small greek salad, broccoli soup, snackers with the cheese dip. Luckily I had a teenager's metabolism back then.

                                                              1. re: kmcarr

                                                                My friends and I spent a lot of time at the Woodland Mall Olga's in the 80's. Hundreds of spinach pies were consumed.

                                                                Clearly we were young, because later we'd land at Mr. Fables for a burger.

                                                            2. re: otisf

                                                              You are so correct!!! It's the bread that they make fresh on site! Sweet, soft and oh so yummy!!!!

                                                            3. I used to eat at the one in Pleasanton, CA back when I was like 12 years old (1992). I loved their chicken fajita olga w/ olga sauce guac and a side of curly fries. Ahhhh, I'm so sad they are no longer on the west coast!!!! So great to see so many people remember the yummy food! :)

                                                              1. I just dragged my husband to the mall in a failed attempt to find a bathing suit for an upcoming trip, and we stopped at Olga's. Turns out he'd never been there. I have rather fond, nostalgic memories of it. Yes, it's overpriced Americanized Mediterranean mall food, but it's actually still pretty good.

                                                                I found a buy-one-get-one sandwich coupon on Facebook/Twitter (good for another week or so, if you're interested), so it wasn't too bad. I had spinach pie (now individual and triangular and a bit bigger than my childhood memories) and an original, hubby had an original with curly fries. The whole thing came out to about $13 ($20ish without the coupon). Service was fast and pleasant.

                                                                I think you'll find a generation of people, mostly in Michigan, whose first introduction to anything Mediterranean was Olga's. As was said, it's not supposed to be authentic, but it's tastier than many mall options. I found the "Olga meat" to be quite nicely spiced and not dried out, tomatoes fresh and ripe, and damned if I don't still love that weird pita-ish bread.

                                                                1. I worked at Olga's Kitchen in High School in Gaithersburg, Maryland...Lakeforest Mall.. My friends and I had a blast working there...20+ years ago. I still dream of the Three Cheese Olga....the bread, the sauce. Amazing!! Whomever is still lucky to live near one should feel blessed....Yum, yum....

                                                                  1. Wow--this is a stroll down memory lane. I worked at the Birmingham community house in high school (go Seaholm) and would go to the original Olga's all the time back in the day when Olga & her family worked there. I loved that place--still do. Even though I am in Ca. now I always go for an original when I am in Mi visiting family.

                                                                    1. Nice to see all the memories, but let's talk today Chowhounders! The food, while satisfying in a bland way, is all obviously pre-prepared in a corporate kitchen. What exactly is that "meat"? Beef and lamb, but what else? What's up with the sweet, smushy "pita"? And Olga's sauce seems much more like mayo than yogurt-based. Salads built around iceberg lettuce. Maybe I truly liked this stuff in the 80s, but not so much now.
                                                                      I live near the Olga's on Plymouth Rd; when we lose electricity at home, Olga is a reasonable option.

                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                      1. re: trapani

                                                                        Well for me at least, Olga's is all about the memories rather than the food quality. It's a taste of childhood and it's comfort food, so I can't review it as I would any old chain restaurant. I'd probably feel differently if I still lived near one, but maybe not, judging by some of the comments above.

                                                                        I used to make the lengthy drive to the one in Thousand Oaks after I moved to CA, was very sorry when I heard it closed. According to a local newspaper article at the time, the owner wanted to move on, corporate didn't want to buy it, and he was contractually forbidden from selling it (no idea why that would be). So it closed. Now if I want an Olga's fix, it's a 2,000 mile trip.

                                                                      2. I'm glad to find this thread. I'm an Olga's fan, especially of the peasant soup and Snackers with cheese spread. I also like the original Olga as a creative take on gyros and pita. When I had a job in downtown Birmingham (1991-1992), my coworkers and I regularly ate at the Olga's on Woodward, where we once had the pleasure of meeting Olga herself. This is one of the few chains I still like.

                                                                        1. I'm headed to the Detroit area for a family wedding in a few weeks and want to be sure to have lunch at Olga's one day. Was looking at their online menu, and - what? no tuna Olga? Has it been discontinued??? Anyone know?

                                                                          1. I am from Nor Cal, the Bay Area. They used to have an Olga's Kitchen in Pleasanton at the Stone Ridge Mall and we used to eat there almost 1 time a week..... I loved their chicken fajita olga! OMG that bread they made was so delicious!
                                                                            They closed down many years ago, so sad! When I was in college I too wrote them main corporation asking if they would ever be back and where can I find them and got a very similar response and sadly I don't travel much so I have not been back to one in MANY years.....
                                                                            I would LOOOOOOVE to eat at an Olga's Kitchen again!!!! Thanks for reminding me of a great food memory!

                                                                            1. Yes!!! I used to go to the one in the Willow Grove Mall in PA. It closed and became an Aeropostal or something like that. The same thing happened to us! My mother and I went there for dinner one eve, and they were closed :( I went on the same hunt and am content today because I found the unofficial recipe for their salad dressing:

                                                                              2/3 cup olive oil
                                                                              1/4 cup cider vinegar or red wine vinegar
                                                                              2 tablespoons water
                                                                              1 tablespoon lemon juice
                                                                              1 tablespoon sugar
                                                                              2 teaspoon dry tarragon leaves,finely chopped
                                                                              1 teaspoon basil leaves, finely chopped
                                                                              4 drops of Tabasco sauce
                                                                              1 teaspoon oregano leaves finely crushed
                                                                              1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
                                                                              1/2 teaspoon pepper
                                                                              1/2 teaspoon onion salt
                                                                              1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
                                                                              Mix all and refrigerate, yum!