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Cheap Greek near Downtown?

A buddy of mine is coming into downtown tomorrow and wanted to grab a Gyro or other greek for lunch. Since the Athenian Grill is now closed, I don't know where to take him. From my research on Chowhound the closest places I'm seeing are Arpeggio on airport, Phoencia on S. Lamar, and Milto's up by campus. I've previously been to Marakesh on Congress, so I wanted to try something else.

I couldn't find a menu for Milto's online - what is the lunch menu like? Atmosphere is not important....

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  1. Gyros, suvlaki, panakopitas, salads. Also pizzas, pasta etc. I love everything on their Greek menu and dislike their pizza. By the way their cakes are not bad either.

    2 Replies
    1. re: threecats

      Would you recommend the greek food at Milto's over the other places I mentioned?

      1. re: LakeLBJ

        I did not try Arpeggio yet, so am unsure. Phoenicia is still my favorite for Middle Eastern food, I never even noticed they have specifically Greek dishes. Anyhow Phoenicia on S. Lamar is nicer than on Burnet, but you just pick up your food there and go. My experience in Phoenicia in general is that you cannot go wrong there with traditional Middle Eastern food. But whenever they try to do something more adventurous, it does not work very well.

    2. The schwarmas at Phoenicia (I usually go to the one on Burnet Road) are great. They have several dozen things on their menu that I've tried only a few of. Everything I've had has been very good. Used to like Milto's a lot but haven't been in years.


      2 Replies
      1. re: Jim Washburn

        The traditional sandwiches at Phoenicia are amazing too! Their french bread is great. One of my favorites is the Prosciutto. And they're all cheap as well. My friends and I go get sandwiches and take them to Auditorium Shores on nice days. The tabouli and hummus aren't bad if you want to split some to go with your sandwich too.

        1. re: foodiegal71

          Try their cheese bread. It's on a flat bread which is not like a pita, but more like a large crumpet. Hot, very rich, and tasty - a great deal for only $2. IMO. I always get one before I go to the dentist across the street (which has been a lot lately).

      2. I like Milto's a lot. Have had souvlaki and gyro several times. The greek salad is great, and they serve it with these addictive knotted rolls that I think are made from their pizza dough. They have a small parking lot but it's often a mess to get in and out of.

        Campus Food has a copy of the menu:

        1 Reply
        1. re: mkwng

          Thanks for the menu link! I think I'm going to take my buddy there for lunch.

        2. I actually like Milto's more than Phoenicia, but that's personal tastes I think. Gyro there is probably the best I've ever had. Love the fluffy pita and the sauce has just the right kick. Agree that the side salad with the house dressing is a must...those knot rolls ARE addictive.

          1. Follow Up:
            I did go to Milto's yesterday with my friend. Did they change the sign or has it always said Meditteranean Cafe and not Milto's on the sign? Well, it says Milto's, but in really small letters....
            Anyway, it was a decent experience. We went at noon and it was actually dead. I ordered the small house salad with house dressing and the Souvlaki. The souvlaki was wrapped up in foil and a fluffy pita held tender pieces of sirloin steak in a tangy sauce and veggies. My friend ordered the gyro. He said it was good, the gyro meat looked like any gyro meat I've seen at any other greek place. (I'm assuming that gyro meat is bought from a vendor like Sisco - I doubt most places make it from scratch, right?). My salad was $3.10 and the Souvlaki was $5.25, so with tax it was just over $9 with water. The salad was very appetizing in appearance - fresh vegetables, pepperoni, cheese, and a garlic knot on top. I wasn't wild about the house dressing - it was ok but not my style. I'll try another dressing next time. I thoguht it had a bitter taste to it, I recently purchased some Annie's Naturals Green Garlic dressing and it tasted almost identical to that. The service was friendly.
            Overall, I'll be back....until Athenian Grill re-opens in downtown. For $9, Athenian offers a gyro with twice the meat and veggies, and they include your choice of soup or salad.

            I've been in Austin for 3 years and I'm trying to hit all the food in Austin that's been around for 20+ years - next stop is the Frisco Shop before it moves.

            4 Replies
            1. re: LakeLBJ

              Thanks for the report.

              I think you're right about gyro meat being outsourced. Nearly every single place that slings gyros gets them from a vendor -- granted, there are varying tiers of product, and you can also send them your custom-designed recipe (even better) for the loaf, but they're all essentially the same. Timing is key when you order you gyros, I find. All the generic gyros are still tasty to me (if they've had a chance to caramelize up a bit), but man, gyros made in-house can be something else. Probably non-existent here in Austin, but I'd love to know if it's out there.

              1. re: LakeLBJ

                Lale LBJ, is the Athenian Grill actually going to reopen, or was that just an off-hand comment?
                I really loved that place and could not figure out how it closed in the first place with the vast lunch crowd it attracted.

                1. re: chowbandit


                  I randomly saw the owner walking down Congress Ave. about a month after the original location closed. He said they were going to reopen in the fall and that they were looking at two locations - I know one of them being in that building at Brazos and 8th where they are redoing it into a Loft buidling. I can't remember the other possible location. Either way it looks like they've missed their opening mark but I can't see him not re-opening it.

                  1. re: LakeLBJ

                    In this thread about Athenian Grill - http://www.chowhound.com/topics/435575 - someone said the lease at 8th & Brazos fell through, and someone else links to an article in the ABJ that says Athenian Grill will reopen in One American Center (6th and Congress) at an undetermined date (est. March '08?)

              2. Noticed a new place today' almost around the corner from Milto's. It's called El Greco and it is in the new development at 31st & Guadalupe (where Mangia moved). They have a menu up at http://www.elgrecoaustin.com/menu.html

                Will try to check it out soon and report back.

                4 Replies
                1. re: mkwng

                  hmm...keeps repeating hand-made on the gyro. I'll be trying this place soon. oop. looks like they aren't open yet.

                  1. re: mkwng

                    I went by last night and El Greco is not open yet, and from the looks of where they are on the build out of the space it will be a little while until it is open.

                    1. re: rollledspleen

                      I just spoke with Nick of El Greco and he says they're training staff right now and hope to open in two weeks. Looking forward to it!

                    2. re: mkwng

                      Just called again. They hope to have a soft opening on either Monday or Wednesday next week. Said they wanted everything to be perfect rather than open too soon.

                    3. Tino's Greek Cafe also has a couple of locations, one of which is in the Randall's center at Balcones and 2222. They make & sell all sorts of 'authentically greek' stuff, including lamb gyros from the spit. I think if you took your own pocket pita to replace their strange pancake-ish wrap, and discarded all the chopped lettuce and tomato which they throw on top, it could approach the real thing.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: TAF

                        I ate at Tino's on 2222 today. Anyone watch Kitchen Nightmares? Remember the episode with Sebastian and his "20 different flavor combinations?" Kind of how I felt ordering.

                        You order cafeteria style, as at Athenian Grill. The process was confusing, though. There's a blackboard that doesn't give very clear instructions. With a little help I figured out the lunch special is $6.99. You get your choice of soup or salad (got the salad, typical lettuce/feta/yogurt/onion, with a forlorn tomato wedge and a single olive). Then pick 3 sides from a list of about 10 or 12. I got a decent rice pilaf, a soggy piece of falafel, and a surprisingly tasty keftedes (meatball). Other options include hummus, dolmades, baba, moussaka (vegetarian, I think), steamed veggies, and some other stuff I'm forgetting. Finally, you get lamb or chicken off the spit (or both for another $1.00), and a piece of pita. The lamb tasted standard.

                        Dinner is $9.99. You get soup AND salad, and there are a couple of extra sides to choose from. I'm tempted to go back and check out the pastitsio.

                        Except for the meatball, Tino's is certainly not as tasty as Athenian was, though it is cheaper. Maybe beg for a couple more olives to replace the tomato on my salad, try a couple of other sides, and I'd go back. But Milto's, El Greco (when it opens), and Athenian (when it reopens) are all closer to the office and will probably stay higher on my list.

                        1. re: mkwng

                          You can also choose five sides instead of three and a gyro. I've started doing that every time - their whipped potatoes along with the keftedes/meatball is something that I can't pass up. The falafel is not usually soggy in my experience.....

                          1. re: mkwng

                            I want to revise my Tino's review. I've been back a couple of times and my experiences have been much better. They sure are expanding rapidly, though - there's a newish one in the Arbor Walk (Mopac & Braker) and one coming to the Triangle. I hope they can keep the quality up.

                            As for El Greco, I've been underwhelmed by the food and disappointed in the value.

                        2. Scruffy's on 6th used to have the best gyro (even better than Ted's), but they took out the kitchen and put up souvenirs instead. The only other place I know that serves the good Kronos brand beef/lamb gyro meat Downtown in the daytime is Cozzoli's - a couple blocks south of Marakesh on the same side. A gyro platter there will run you about $7-$8. Just sandwich is about $5.50 or so.

                          1. If you don't mind running up to campus, I really enjoy Kismet Cafe on 24th(?) street by the Castillian. I've only had the shawarma though so I don't know how everything else is, though my friends like it.
                            Does anyone know if they're under new ownership lately? The counter people seem to be nicer and the place is a bit cleaner. My shawarma wasn't quite as tasty in the past last time I went though.

                            1. My son attended Kirby Hall right down the street from Milto's twenty-five years ago and at that time we made the aquaintance of Milto and his wonderful restaurant. I'm a second generation Greek foodie and in my opinon his gyros are absolutely craveable. I don't know how they could be any better. The lamb is crispy and garlicky and the home made pita bread is excellent. The little knotted rolls are indistinguisable from my own grandmother's and she was a reknowned cook. He even has some Greek lady make the baklava. All I have to do is think about the gyros and if I'm in Austin, I'm having one!
                              I'm looking forward to trying the new El Greco and hopefully the Athenian Grill if they actually open.

                              10 Replies
                              1. re: chrislike

                                El Greco is open. I visited yesterday for a quick lunch. The restaurant is not easy to see from Guadalupe, so I hope they find a way to attract customers. I was worred about parking but found there was ample room even at noon directly behind the establishment in a covered garage - that is a nice plus for campus area eastablisments. Working downtown, I often avoid the drag and campus area locations as parking and traffic are ridiculous.

                                According to the website, the Gyro options are "a handmade" recipe and are available in "traditional" and "chicken". I ordered a Gyro at the counter after seeing, indeed, a non-formed stack of meat turning on a vertical spit behind the counter. The counterperson offered me "Pork" or "Chicken". Pork? PORK? I thought Gyros were supposed to lamb/beef....but the meat mixture looked good nevertheless so I went for it. I almost asked the guy if he was sure it was pork and not a mixture of beef and lamb as he was obviously just a local college kid, possibly on his first day of work there so I didn't.

                                They gyro ran $7.50 and included no sides. There are 5 or 6 side choices available at $3.00 each. Potatoes, Fries, not sure what else. The gyro was perhaps a touch larger than the Milto's version, and included the usualy suspects of tomato, lettuce, tatziki, and onion. The meat tasted great actually - with all the spices and tatziki sauce I probably wouldn't have been able to tell what animal it came from anyway. Next time I will ask the owner why he chose pork, if it really is pork....

                                The Greek Cheeseburger which is stuffed with feta cheese sounded like a possibility for next time.

                                Employees were friendly. It's an "order at the counter and they bring it out to you" type place. Several employees asked me if I was enjoying my food and the owner was actively engadged in a conversation with a few guests.

                                Again, I enjoyed the food there but for $8.12 after tax I needed something else to fill me up. The sandwich was decent sized but for that money it needed to come with at least a small side. I think the Gyro at Athenian Grill was $8.99 but it was 50% larger and included your choice of soup or salad. Of course, Athenian uses the processed standard gyro meat...

                                I will be back to El Greco to sample the other dishes. Most dishes were in the $11-15 range actually - the sandwiches were the only "lunch" options. They didn't have a dedicated lunch menu, that would be a nice touch.

                                1. re: LakeLBJ

                                  Their menu states 'Spit roasted Traditional or Chicken Gyro'. Traditional to me means lamb. I'll go by this weekend and try out their moussaka ... you never know ...

                                  1. re: LakeLBJ

                                    We went to El Greco this past weekend, and shared the "traditional" (pork) gyro. The meat was tasty, but a tad too chewy, which made for some messy eating, since the pieces weren't small enough. The tzatziki sauce was very good and on the garlicky side (which I like). The two of us also shared the spanakopita - the dough was flaky and buttery, and the filling was savory and fresh tasting. It came out to about $12 for one gyro and 2 pieces of spanakopita...kind of pricey, and we were both hungry again about an hour later.

                                    We noticed that the prices on the blackboard didn't match the prices in the printed menu on the counter - it turns out that the prices for some of the dishes will vary, based on what it cost them to procure the supplies. Those menu items are marked with a "+" on the paper menu, and list the minimum price for the item, which are subject to change on a weekly basis. I thought this was a little weird. Also, the owner mentioned that all the meats they use are organic (hence the higher prices?)

                                    El Greco
                                    3016 Guadalupe, Austin, TX

                                    1. re: mhaustx

                                      Yes, the place is nice, but the food is a bit too expensive. I live in the area so by now I tried the fasolada (very good, but $7.50 for a bowl seems a bit pricey) and a moussaka (nice, fairly small, not worth $12 even though it comes with a fairly unremarkable salad). The Greek coffee was so so. Will I go back? Maybe, since it is so close and since I really like Greek food. But not for whatever I can get in Milto's.

                                      1. re: threecats

                                        Really? hmm. and I was really excited about this place. I do loooove milto's gyros (the bread is just the best)

                                        1. re: amysuehere

                                          Milto's tyropitas are really good too. And I strongly recommend to try one of the cakes. The thing is that Milto's Greek menu is rather limited.

                                          1. re: threecats

                                            I absolutely adore the side salad with the roll and the house dressing...a real treat.

                                            1. re: amysuehere

                                              I cannot say I adore it. The salad is good, but no more than good. But then I am way too picky about my salads. Has to do with my Middle Eastern background, I guess. And I am still searching for a thinly cut Greek salad. Somehow the taste is really different. Yes, I can make it at home, but I am way too lazy. Hey, I wonder about the Greek salad in El Greco. My impression is that they are into a home cooking style. So their salad just might be exactly what I am looking for. Or not. I'll check it out next time I'll get a craving for that fasolada. It is way too expensive, but I am nostalgic and there is nowhere else in town I can get it.

                                              1. re: amysuehere

                                                I didn't care for the house dressing at Milto's - oddly bitter. But I know everyone has their own opinions, to some it might be great.

                                                1. re: LakeLBJ

                                                  Okay, "adore" was a bit strong. I guess I'm in a good mood today. I do like the dressing though. Guess I really like the play of bitter/sweet/sour/salty.

                                  2. I've always liked Longhorn Po-Boys on Medical Arts across the street from the law school. Generous servings. For $4.77 you get a huge falafel sandwich with the falafel dropped in the fryer when you order the sandwich. The gyro is standard loaf but with all the other ingredients very fresh. I also get the chicken schwarma often but only if I don't have a meeting after lunch because it is very garlicky.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: The Tres Leches

                                      Really? I tried their falafel once and hated it. The falafel was really bad, the way it comes out when the oil in the fryer is not replaced very often. But it was about two years ago, so perhaps things are different now. I'll give it a try. Thanks for the info.