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Mar 2, 2008 12:30 PM

Samos - Oldham St. Baltimore

I've been to Samos about 3 times now and I cannot begin to tell you how much I love this place. However, because the boyfriend doesn't really like Greek food I'm lucky if I get to go once every 6 months or so. The boyfriend also does not like to wait but each time we've been we've had to wait at least a half hour. This is no big deal to me because I love the place and so to me it's worth the wait. Is there ever a time when there isn't a long wait to get seated? We've been during the week as well as on the weekend.

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  1. Your best bet is earlier in the evening on any day... from my experience, showing up at 7 will be an hour wait. I show up at 5. It's highly variable... it's all about how fast they can turn the tables, which sometimes takes forever, especially for those large parties who bring their own wine etc.

    Samos is just simply great food though. I don't mind waiting there even if it is a wait since it's a little bit of a trek for me anyways just to get out there.

    1 Reply
    1. re: OscarTehGrouch

      We live in Perry Hall/White Marsh area and drove down to Samos Saturday night and there were like 16,000 people waiting to be seated at 6:00 PM (I've eaten there over a dozen times over the past couple of years). Usually we will wait and sometimes they aren't filled up yet by 6:00, but this time I just couldn't deal with the potential wait behind 16,000 people, so we ended up driving all the way up to Kitchen of India instead where we walked right in and got a table - we have become Regulars at Kitchen of India. I can remember going to Samos a couple of times for lunch and just walked right into an open table - both Saturday and during the week. Samos also has pizza - I wonder if it is as good as every thing else at Samos?

    2. My first instinct is to suggest a new boyfriend.

      Realizing that this may not be desirable or practical, you might also try some of the other Greek places in the area where there usually isn't a wait. We had a chow outing at Zorba's, which specializes in grilled meat and fish. It was wonderful -- easily equal to if not better than Samos, although the menus differ. Ikaros has (or had, based on a couple of recent reports) the best fried calamari I have ever had -- nothing like the bar food that this dish is usually associated with.

      I doubt that either of these places will make him change about Greek food if he doesn't like it (how can anyone not like Greek food?), but they may make the waiting issue less of a problem.

      21 Replies
      1. re: JonParker

        We were probably there with you Whitemarshjohn!! The line was almost out the door when we got there and once we were in and standing in the vestibule others behind us had to wait outside. I never thought to do this but there was a party of 12 who had gotten there before us and instead of waiting there with everyone else they went over to the little bar across the street to wait and had the hostess call over there when their table was ready!

        *LOL* Getting a new boyfriend would be a rather drastic solution. I think his main problem with Samos is the wait and the fact that we drive almost 45 minutes to get there anyway. I've never been to any of the other restaurants in Greektown as I just love Samos too much to even risk going somewhere that I'm not familiar with.

        I know they remodeled a few years ago and expanded their dining room but I think another expansion is needed!! Waits that are that long definitely call for more tables but then again I guess that wait is what gives it more character.

        1. re: lrebetsky0423

          I like Ikaros too, although I don't think their food is at the level of Samos. I just think the world of the food at Samos. They are a rare bird - relatively inexpensive excellence.

          1. re: Whitemarshjohn

            Ikaros is not my favorite, except for the calamari. But Zorba's is excellent. The lamb chops may be the best I ever had.

            We had like 20 people for our chow dinner there, and everyone thought it was fantastic. Again, the menu is different than Samos, but it's every bit as good if not better. It's not an alternative to Samos, it's a destination all its own.

            1. re: JonParker

              My Fiance did not like the atmosphere of Zorba's - she thought it looked cheesy - we sat in the room upstairs. I kind of liked the atmosphere. My Fiance and I did not think the quality was Samos quality, but it certainly wasn't bad. I remember the menu seemed limited. I've never eaten at the Acropolis, but stopped in for the appetizer sampler plate for lunch one time - it seems like it may be a good place as well.

              1. re: Whitemarshjohn

                Acropolis is excellent. Calamari on par with Ikaros, and Dolmades and Lamb Giuvetsi better than Ikaros or Samos. IMO Ikaros, Acropolis, and Samos are each excellent restaurants, among the best in Baltimore, and each excels in some area. Ikaros has the best best Village salad and moussaka and ties with Acropolis on its calamari. Samos' pasta dishes "Athena-style" are different and superior to their competitors and they include a Greek salad with many dinners, while Acropolis delivers the basic baked lamb and stuffed grape leaves better than anywhere I have ever eaten. Bottom line is these are three great places, and my recollection of many years ago is that Zorba's grilled pork was the best I have ever had, so there are many great choices fo chowhounds in Greektown.

                1. re: elgringoviejo

                  I agree about the calamari at the Acropolis (the chef was the cook at Ikaros in the 70s when it was locally legendary, BTW). Best taramasalata in B-more? Mezze. Zorba's is great and the closest thing locally to real Greek cooking as opposed to Greek-American, both of which I enjoy.

                  1. re: ko1

                    Ikaros was indeed legendary in the 70s. Back then I avoided Friday and Saturday nights due to the hustle and bustle. In recent times Ikaros still has great taramasalata. Have to check out Zorba's again.

                    1. re: ko1

                      I have only tried Acropolis once, and I just stopped in with no idea what to order. I think I had a grilled red snapper which was darned good and a lot cheaper than say Black Olive.

                      One thing I'll say for Samos over the competition -- I'm pretty sure they don't even offer the canned green beans with canned tomato sauce that's so popular in Greektown.

                      But even before our chow dinner Zorba's had become my go-to place in Greektown, and that magnificent dinner sealed the deal.

                  2. re: Whitemarshjohn

                    Cheesy compared to Samos?
                    If cheesy means most people talking greek, greek music blaring, Greek TV on all the sets and an occassional Greek priest in full clerical dress enjoying dinner, then it's meta-feta cheesy.
                    I love the atmosphere at Zorba's, I feel like I am somewhere else, say Greece? and the food is unbelievable, they even serve Horta!!!!!!!

                    1. re: Whitemarshjohn

                      If the comparison was between, say Black Olive and Zorba's, I could see the distinction, but adjudicating the "cheese" factor between Samos and Zorba's is (to me) like a Burger King fan accusing McDonald's of "looking like a fast food joint".

                      To each his own, but if Zorba's is "cheesy", I don't see how Samos does not rate as being merely a slightly different form of cheese - if one's Romano, the other's Parmesan, but either both are (each in their own way), or neither is.

                  3. re: Whitemarshjohn

                    I totally 100% agree with you Whitemarshjohn!!

                    Last night I got the taromasalata as an appetizer. It was so good it was almost addictive. I've had taromasalata at DiMitri's off of 108 and didn't enjoy it nearly as much as Samos'. For my entree I got the chicken and lamb combination souvlaki platter. Both were amazingly tender and flavorful. I love their greek salads and homemade dressing. I love the roasted veggies that come alongside the platters. I love their homemade pita bread!!! I wish they were closer and in a better neighborhood!

                    1. re: lrebetsky0423

                      I love the taramasalata at Ikaros, haven't tried it at Samos. The souvlaki platters and the pasta "Athenian-style" along with including the Greek salad with many entrees are why business booms at Samos. Samos' soups are also among the best in Baltimore.

                      1. re: elgringoviejo

                        I think the taramasalata at Zorba's blows Samos' out of the water! Overall though, Samos and Zorba's are very different places. If looking for soup (which are pretty homey and wonderful at Samos) and an Americanized Greek salad (a mix of iceberg and romaine lettuce) or a gyro, head to Samos. If you're looking for great lamb, octopus, and other amazing grilled fish and meat, Zorba's is your place.

                        And, I definitely agree with the post below about the atmosphere at Zorba's. Who cares? If it bothers you, get carry out and eat it somewhere that won't upset your (or your g/f's) heightened sense of aesthetics.

                        1. re: baltoellen

                          Geez, give the guy a break. He didn't say he wouldn't go there or that other people shouldn't (in fact he said he LIKED the atmosphere), he was just offering another person's perspective on it. Atmosphere is absolutely a legitimate thing to include when reviewing a restaurant. Heck, a review today of the new Saute place in Canton made a big point of commenting that the low ceilings negatively impacted her experience. And baltoellen, didn't you also comment just today in the Taquito thread about one place's sunny atmosphere as compared to another place's inner sanctum feel? Sure, chowhound is about the food first and foremost, but the experience of dining out is about other stuff too. Atmosphere might not be a deal breaker, but its certainly a factor worth mentioning.

                          1. re: charmedgirl

                            Here's what I wrote on the taco thread:
                            <<But, on the ambiance front, it's hard to think of the two places as more different: Sinaloa is just so sunny and bright; and at Taquito, I felt as though I entered some secret inner sanctum kind of place. (Not that that's a bad thing, or matters very much.)>>

                            I agree that atmosphere/ambiance is definitely part of the dining experience. I don't think that I or anyone else suggested otherwise. However, it is almost never the deciding factor on whether or not a think a place is worthy. (The only time it is a "deal breaker" for me is when a resto is a a basement or carved out of a cave or something since I'm really claustrophobic!)

                          2. re: baltoellen

                            Any opinion on the taramasalata at Ikaros?

                            1. re: elgringoviejo

                              Ikaros was the first place I ever had taramasalata maybe a decade ago. I remember loving it, but I don't know what I'd think now, with my slightly more educated palate!

                      2. re: Whitemarshjohn

                        One other thing... Samos does catering. I had them cater a graduation dinner at my church and everything was fabulous and not expensive at all. Call and ask them to e-mail you a catering menu...

                        I need to try these other Greektown places, but I love Samos so much it's hard to deviate from the tried and true. Even when I go to Samos, I have trouble deviating from my normal choices of gyro/souvlaki because of the price/deliciousness utility =)

                        On a completely off topic note, I checked out Kitchen of India on whitemarshjohn's recommendation in the best indian buffet in baltimore thread. I didn't really enjoy it. Found it way bland.

                        1. re: OscarTehGrouch

                          I know!! My friend got Samos to cater her July 4th party last year! It was SO good!!!

                          I enjoy India Delight on Edmondson Ave. in Catonsville. They have a lunch buffet that I have not tried as I heard that it was better to order off the menu.

                          1. re: OscarTehGrouch

                            "I need to try these other Greektown places, but I love Samos so much it's hard to deviate from the tried and true."

                            Unwilling to cross the street or try the unknown? And you call yourself a chowhound? C'mon, Oscar :-)

                            I was also present at the Zorba's dinner and can attest to its awesomeness. Beautiful lamb, rich, thick tzatziki and -- at the risk of hyperbole -- what may have been the best grilled octopus I've tasted (among many other excellent dishes, though those were my personal highlights).

                            "My Fiance did not like the atmosphere of Zorba's - she thought it looked cheesy."

                            It is. So what? Has Chowhound strayed so far from its roots that cheesy decor is enough to turn its members away from a great neighborhood restaurant? This place IS still about the food, isn't it?

                            1. re: Dmnkly

                              That octopus was good. I love me some octopus. The best I've had locally is at Kali's Court, but that's a whole 'nother price point!

                    2. We often go there after work- short skip away from Dundalk. typically it is around 3:30 and we always walk right in no matter how many we have. Little bit of an odd time perhaps but it works.
                      Best Spinach Pie I've every had-hands down!

                      10 Replies
                      1. re: poached

                        3:30 sounds good. I usually drive by Samos to see how the line is then go on to Zorba's if it looks unmanageable. If I can't sit on the first floor at Zorba's its on to Plan "C". Sometimes Mathew's which thins out between 8:30 to 9 PM.

                        Many remember Ikaros before they expanded to 3 houses. I think it was much better then. We are fortunate to have as many good choices as we do in our little Greektown.

                        1. re: baltimorejim

                          baltoellen: "And, I definitely agree with the post below about the atmosphere at Zorba's. Who cares? If it bothers you, get carry out and eat it somewhere that won't upset your (or your g/f's) heightened sense of aesthetics."

                          MY RESPONSE: I always find the food to be more important to me unless I am trying to impress others or if I am looking for a quiet place or dinner at a very leisurely pace - on those rare occasions decor/atmosphere ARE important to me. I've probably been to Samos over a dozen times, Ikaros about 4-5 times and I've only been to Zorba's and the Acropolis once. Personally I feel all 4 of them are good restaurants - just that Samos seems to stand out the most food-wise.

                          1. re: Whitemarshjohn

                            Please don't get me wrong: I do agree that there are times when atmosphere/ambiance/decor are important. There are times (well, very rare times for me) when being able to be in a quiet/nice/secluded/etc place is as important, or sometimes more important, than the food. However, I thought that we were talking about the quality of food in Greektown.

                            And, I wasn't kidding about getting carry-out. That's certainly an option if you like the food but not the ambiance.

                            Wow! I didn't know that this comment would hit a nerve. My apologies if anyone felt attacked or offended.

                            1. re: baltoellen

                              Speaking only for myself, I certainly didn't feel offended, but I did think the tone of your (and to be fair, Dmnkly's as well) post was unnecessarily snarky. I am sure you meant no offense and it is probably the nature of the written electronic medium, but that is why I chimed in. Regardless, it seems that everyone agrees atmosphere is sometimes important, food is almost always important, and that Zorba's is a gem. :-D How's that for a happy ending?

                              1. re: charmedgirl

                                Another nice wrap-up charmedgirl! (You are very good at this, which was also seen in your Pike Place Mkt versus Lexington Mkt mini-dustup.)

                                Anyway, I will try to avoid any future snarks a and make liberal use of emoticons in the future. :-)

                                And, yes....a perfect happy ending....just like finishing a meal at Zorba's!

                                1. re: charmedgirl

                                  My intention wasn't to be snarky... my intention was to criticize quite openly and frankly! :-)

                                  I like to think people can disagree on a subject without it being personal, and my comments certainly weren't intended to be personal.

                                  That said, I stand by the criticism. Admittedly, I'm new here, seeking a new board in the absence of the one I frequented back in my hometown, so I don't mean to be the new jacka** who comes in and throws his weight around. But I certainly was under the impression that Chowhound was about digging in the nooks and crannies to find those rough-around-the-edges undiscovered gems, and as such it was surprising to see some of the criticisms leveled here. If the atmosphere at Zorba's (which I'm surprised to find anybody who frequents neighborhood ethnic joints criticizing) even registers as noteworthy, especially in light of the excellent meal we had there, and folks are talking about being unwilling to cross the street to check it out, I do find that unfortunate. Of course everybody is entitled to their opinion and I don't mean to suggest otherwise, but that's simply not the kind of food first anxious to explore attitude that I expected to encounter. And while I absolutely agree that atmosphere is sometimes important (though I think the criticisms in this case are exceedingly nitpicky), I think your statement that "food is almost always important" is telling. When the heck is the food not important? I thought that was the whole point of Chowhound... that it IS about the food and not the hype. Substance over style. And if it's inappropriate for me to do my part to keep the focus on the food (at least in the manner that I did), then I've misjudged the spirit of the board and I apologize.

                                  1. re: Dmnkly

                                    When food is not important is a discussion for the Not About Food board -- definitely NOT this one -- so I won't say anything other than food is NOT the most important thing to me when it comes down to a decision between food and friends (ie. friend invites me over and serves something atrocious, I don't say anything, smile, eat a few bites and say thank you), food and family (ie. you want to treat aging grandmother who isn't very mobile, hard of hearing, and can't tolerate spicy food to a nice birthday lunch), or some similar situation. If that isn't in the true spirit of chowhound, well, I will happily accept that and say I am guilty as charged!

                                    1. re: charmedgirl

                                      When food is not important is definitely a discussion for the Not About Food board and not this one. Please start a new thread there if you wish to continue on this topic.

                              2. re: Whitemarshjohn

                                Sorry I might have gone off topic (food topic) a bit and brought up decor at Zorbas - I liked the decor and just thought others might want the opinion of my Fiance who didn't. I was pretty much done with the topic of Zorbas, but since I get the feeling that I have stirred things up a bit and there are some here who can't seem to believe that our dining experience at Zorbas seemed inferior to Samos let me be more specific. I talked to my Fiance again to try to get a better idea of what she felt about the food at Zorbas and to refresh my own memory of our meal. I have a little trouble remembering what I had (we at there 5-6 months ago) - I believe I ordered the gyro platter which was not bad but not the best either. I remember being a bit surprised that the menu was limited in the number of dishes they had - easy to read and decide, but some would probably be disappointed that some Greek dishes they like are excluded. We had grilled octopus as an appetizer which seemed pretty good. My Fiance had a lamb dish as her entree (she really loves lamb) and thought it was very tender but fatty. She said that her vegetables were not cooked properly - they were undercooked. I can't remember if we had salads or not - Samos salads are very memorable. I would probably try Zorbas again - my neighbor who is an Ikaros lover and has not been to Zorba's would probably be willing to go there with me, but I don't think I would be able to talk my Fiance into going back when there are so many other good places and she is so fond of Samos. Why does it bother some of the Chowhounds so much that we didn't have the greatest experience at Zorba's? OscarTehGrouch just mentioned on this very thread that he ate at the buffet at Kitchen of India and didn't really care for it. Kitchen of India is one of my favorite dozen or so places, but I am not going to tell OscarTehGrouch what he should have experienced, or tell him how he should feel about his meal.

                                1. re: Whitemarshjohn

                                  Speaking only for myself, John, what threw me wasn't that you didn't enjoy it at much, but rather that your initial post came right out with criticisms of the atmosphere (strange, I thought, for a place so innocuous), and then followed with no description of the actual food beyond that it "wasn't bad". Of course, if you didn't like it you didn't like it. And while I sampled an awful lot on my one trip, it was still one trip -- for all I know, it's entirely possible that the food you had on your visit wasn't nearly as good as what I had. Of course, a gyro plate isn't something I'd generally order at a Greek (as opposed to Greek-American) restaurant and I love fat on my lamb, so maybe that goes a ways towards explaining.our difference of opinion :-)

                                  But in short, perhaps it wasn't your intention, but the tone of that post struck me, at least, as "yeah, we didn't like the atmosphere, and oh, by the way, the food..." rather than the other way around -- which is exactly the kind of approach that I come here hoping to avoid.

                          2. I tried Samos earlier this week and was severely disappointed. I'll admit my standards for Greek/Balkan are high because I spent several years in Germany (the ouzo doesn't hurt either), but I had the combination platter to try everything and it struck me as quantity over quality with none of the tangy kick I expect from Greek food. The spinakopita and roast potatoes were good, but everything else was bland and either dried out or swimming in the juice from the roast vegetables.

                            If this is the best in Greektown then I'm hesitant to try any of the other places. I currently run down to College Park for a gyro at Marathon Deli whenever I need a fix of the real stuff. I've tried Dmitri's, Soto's Grill, and others and nothing is close, though I find Solana's pressed meat version to be acceptable enough to save me the long drive now and then.

                            9 Replies
                            1. re: 2stepper

                              In the years I've been eating there, I've found that it can veer wildly in the consistency department. There have been times where I've said that I wasn't going back--but, then Samos just ends up redeeming itself somehow. I do eat there much less than I used to....and, I also have almost no tolerance for the waiting that one has to endure almost any night to get a table there.

                              But, honestly, Samos is great, but if you want the really "good stuff" head to Zorba's (although it's not really a gyros place).

                              1. re: baltoellen

                                Hearing that Samos is wildly inconsistent doesn't make me eager to try again. It wasn't just the gyros I found disappointing. The dolmades, for example, simply fell apart once I cut it open as it seemed to have nothing in it but watery rice (maybe they forgot the beef?). The chicken souvlaki and Greek salad were bland and seemed hurried in their preparation (the place was insanely busy, but it sounds like that's par for the course).

                                I don't mean to be unduly harsh and I had been thinking of giving Zorba's a try. I just had high hopes that maybe were unrealistic.

                                1. re: 2stepper

                                  But, when they're good, they're really good. And, I sort of think of it as Greek comfort food, with fantastic homemade soups. I've had major issues with the salad, too, but usually give them credit if I order a salad in the winter. I haven't been to Greece, but understand that they don't serve salads like that there, and this is a Greek-America version. Are you sure you didn't order vegetarian domades?

                                  Definitely give Zorba's a try. But, I'm pretty sure that they don't have souvlaki. They are known for their grilled meats and fish. Also, I think their taramasolata blows the Samos' version out of the Aegean!

                                  1. re: baltoellen

                                    Okay, okay, while I am a diehard Samos fan I have to agree about the combination platter. We don't go to Samos often mostly due to distance the fact that the boyfriend doesn't really like Greek food but when we do go I normally get the souvlaki and am VERY impressed with it. However, we went last Friday and just to try something different I got the combination platter and I was VERY disappointed!! I was SO disappointed that I didn't even eat the leftovers that I took home! So maybe Samos really is a hit or miss thing and I've had only hits the previous times I've been there and had the souvlaki. I hope you'll understand that this is hard for me to admit.

                                    1. re: lrebetsky0423

                                      I thought the kebabs at Maiwand Kebab (which I also tried this week) were everything the souvlaki at Samos was not, well-spiced and nicely charred. (I know it's Afghan, but they're both basically meat and vegetables on a skewer.) Maybe I hit Samos on a bad day but I don't think they're what I'm looking for. I'll give Zorba's a try the next time I run into Baltimore but it may simply be that I'm used to a different style.

                                      @lrebetsky: Gyros are just one dimension of the Greek experience, but if you're anywhere near U of Md you should take your boyfriend to Marathon Deli and see if it changes his mind. There's a reason they've stayed open for 20+ years as basically a one-trick pony.

                                      1. re: 2stepper

                                        Ever had a gyro at Maria D's on Light street in south Baltimore? BTW I also prefer Maiwand's kebabs to Samos' souvlaki.

                                        1. re: elgringoviejo

                                          I haven't been to Maria D's, but I'm certainly willing to give it a try.

                                          1. re: 2stepper

                                            I never fail to be astounded that Maria D's gets recommended for anything. That place scares me, and I don't scare easy.

                                            In fairness I've only been once, but I suppose I'll have to try it again since it's just a couple blocks from me, but.... ew.

                                            They don't do gyros or souvlaki, but I agree with the Zorba's recs. One of my favorite places.

                                            1. re: JonParker

                                              It was a beautiful day to be near the harbor so I stopped at Maria D's for gyros. After JonParker's comments, I went with the air of someone taking a bullet for the team (just kidding), and had something of a conflicted experience.

                                              The place didn't seem that scary when I walked in, though the staff was surly and uncommunicative. Alas, I think this led to miscommunication and I wound up with a gyro platter rather than a gyro pita wrap, and I was somewhat dismayed upon opening the white styrofoam container to find what I'd estimate was a pound of gyro meat and half a cup of tstatsiki.

                                              The meat wasn't bad, lamb-beef carved off the spit, and the pita wedges buried underneath were actually really good. But everything else didn't come close to Marathon Deli (where even the fries are worth going for by themselves). I wasn't able to finish my meal today due to the sheer volume. I'm sure I would have been happier with a wrap, but the unwelcoming nature of the place makes me disinclined to try again.

                                              (One plus was that I finally tried Dangerously Delicious Pies since it was practically next door. Their crust is interesting in that it actually tastes good on the thick crimped part.)

                                              I'll give Zorba's a shot but probably not for a while as things are getting busy.

                            2. I'm surprised to hear that Samos can be uneven - I've eaten there almost a dozen times and they have always been consistently great for me. We tried The Acropolis last Sunday night and enjoyed the overall experience. The salids were very hardy - actually all their portions were very large. My other half had lamb shishkebobs which she probably should have ordered a little more lightly cooked, but they were good with the grilled vegetables. I had half a chicken with potato wedges and some other side - I can't remember what it was. We had grilled calamari as an appetizer which I really enjoyed but my Fiance said was good but not as good as the grilled calamari at Samos. The employees at the Acropolis are extremely helpful and friendly. Has anyone tried Mylo's in Greektown on Eastern Ave?