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Jun 24, 2009 02:19 PM

Excellent experiences with Dizzy's, Helios

Sometimes my husband is a pain in my rear--most often when we are trying to decide on dinner delivery. He doesn't like anything spicy, isn't a fan of pizza, could take or leave pasta, only admits to liking one Thai dish, will cross a restaurant off his "list" after a single unsatisfying experience, defaults far too easily to what we call Chinese spaghetti and meatballs (lo mein with General Tso's on top) and, until about a week ago, maintained that there is no place in PS that will deliver a decent burger (he can identify almost to the month when he thought 2nd Street Cafe's burger (RIP) started to go downhill).

Thanks to advice from these parts, our go-to repertoire has expanded almost geometrically over the past two weeks. The Dizzy's burger has received an enthusiastic seal of approval--I am told that it was juicy, flavorful and actually cooked to specification, and my spicy tuna macaroni casserole filled some kind of bizarro comfort food hole in my heart I didn't even know I had.

Helios is even better. Bolstered by my success with the Dizzy's experiment, I suggested we branch into Greek for an evening, noting that he could try the burger (rec'd here) if he didn't want to try anything new. Instead he decided to get whatever I tried, and three bites into his "Helios Special" pita, he proclaimed this an unmitigated success:
--Spanakopita: served in two baklava-sized wedges, this was far from the sad, soggy, muddy-flavored mess that I've unfortunately come to expect from Greek delivery. The pieces were crispy and savory (though I wish the feta flavor came through a bit more brightly). Perfect for splitting as an appetizer.
--Helios special pita: This is like the delicious bastard love child of souvlaki and gyro--veal and beef in chunks like souvlaki, but ground and spiced like my favorite lamb gyro. They are very generous with the thick and luscious tsatsiki, tomatoes, and onions (though a bit over-generous with the greens, 90% of which I ended up removing, guiltily--more on that in a second), and the pita was fluffy and wonderful.
--Horiatiki salad: tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, feta--simple, delicious, huge, and incredibly fresh. This was in keeping with my favorite aspect of the food in general--the quality of the ingredients. I felt guilty about picking the greens off my pita because this was no ordinary bulk lettuce, but a mound of lovely mesclun greens that I would have been happy to have been served on its own. This was characteristic of all of the produce components of our meal--as though somebody there is actually paying attention to the quality of things that at most places they treat as an after-thought or space filler.

All of the portions were generous and the prices reasonable. Ordered a duplicate meal from there again a couple of days later--next time will branch into the moussaka and htipiti (though, alas, no pastitsio, my other Greek comfort food)--and the food was similarly excellent. Highly recommended.

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  1. Glad you liked Helio's. Their burgers are very good. If you like sausage, they have an excellent one on the menu. Their dips are also very fresh and perfectly spiced.

    1. I'm a fan of Helio's burgers; so glad to see them getting some love on CH!

      1. Did Helios move? I passed by 6th Ave last week and they place was boarded up.

        13 Replies
        1. re: MrsT

          I'm not sure if they moved (since I've never been to the actual restaurant), but I ordered from them again last night (third time in a week--I think my husband is in love). Definitely open for business.

          1. re: planetjess

            I have always wondered why a place like Helios, which is obviously a diner - or based on the diner model - is only open for dinner. Not lunch; not late night; not brunch (or is it?).

            1. re: Juanita

              Not having seen the restaurant, I can't really speak to whether it looks/feels like a diner in person. However, the menu certainly didn't strike me as diner-like in the least--rather than an omnibus approach, with a couple of greek specials thrown in if the diner happens to be greek-run, the menu is 90% greek food that happens to have one section of hamburgers. No BLTs, no turkey clubs, no disco fries, no malteds, no toasted bagels and schmear. I have also never had diner food prepared with the quality of ingredients I've been getting from Helios, and the pricing, which I thought was reasonable and good value, is nonetheless not diner pricing. What is it about the restaurant that makes you think it is a diner/based on a diner model?

              1. re: planetjess

                It's a diner in the sense it has diner stools & a counter with a few extra tables. You're right, the menu is more diverse than a typical diner menu. They don't have a turkey club but they have a turkey burger & a chicken club... no disco fries but "savory fries." Onion rings; grape leaves; spinach pies... If they serve something special someone wants to recommend, I'm open to try it. Just
                haven't had good luck there myself. If their hours were more generous I'd be more likely to give it another chance.

                1. re: Juanita

                  I guess we'll have to agree to disagree. That it is located in an old diner space clarifies the confusion for me. But to me, the presence of stuffed grape leaves and spinach pie (spanakopita) do not indicate "diner" any more than they would at Kefi or Milos (granted, they appear as token Greek specialities on some diner menus, but not on a meze list that includes saganaki, keftedes and louganaki but no mozzarella sticks--most diners also have a short pasta section of their menu, but I wouldn't necessarily think that an Italian restaurant is therefore a diner). As at many restaurants, fries (one way, adjectivally "savory") and onion rings are available and served as sides with their pita and burgers. The burgers section of the menu includes a chicken cutlet on brioche (I don't think I've seen brioche on a diner menu except at Mayrose). The appetizers and entrees sections are extensive, and include solely Greek food (though purists might say the penne is cheating--the only pasta I was ever served in Greece was, like Helios' makaronya, pasta with meat sauce).

                  I guess my point is that I don't find the menu to be more diverse than a diner menu--I think it's much less diverse, because a diner tends to try to cover a much broader range of types of food (from comfort food to italian) at a much lower quality point. IMO, this is a Greek restaurant that happens to serve burgers. It's an important point to me, because I wouldn't want someone to expect something other than what it is, be disappointed because it's not a diner (their hours are not going to be any more generous than any other normal restaurant, and indeed they are not open for lunch except on the weekends) and write it off for that reason. If you have had negative experiences with their food, I'd be interested to hear, as it could help guide me in what I anticipate being my very frequent orders.

              2. re: Juanita

                your assumptions make a difference - think of it as a greek restaurant rather than as a greek-run diner and you may look at it differently.

                1. re: jen kalb

                  OK, you present a good case & I'll have to give the place another shot some time. First couple of times I went there (shortly after they opened) I tried their burgers, which were much-hyped at the time. Neither the lamb burger nor the regular one impressed me much - I felt they were pretty average by neighborhood standards. The next time I tried their moussaka - a disappointment. I've visited Greece once before, when I was much younger, & ate plenty of moussaka. Perhaps my tastes have changed since then & I only THINK I still like the stuff. Not trying to discourage anyone from checking them out. If they're good they're good & let's get the word out.
                  It's true assumptions make a difference. Decor makes a difference too. And, looking at their menu once more, it still seems like a lunch-oriented place, though maybe that's just my prejudice again... but I mean about 2/3 of the menu is sandwiches (do I have an old menu? maybe).

                  1. re: Juanita

                    I think you may have an old menu--even though a hefty chunk of the burgers section is just various names for different combinations of toppings, even looking at them separately and adding in the various types of souvlaki offered (which is one of the things we keep eating for dinner), it's still not as extensive as the soup/salad/meze/entree offerings. Check menupages--even though that menu is itself somewhat out of date, maybe you'll see something interesting? In any case, if not, different strokes for different folks--I just wanted to stick my hand up for the place because we're still at a 100% success/satisfaction rate after three orders, and I can't say that about many places, even some of our favorites.

                    I definitely appreciate your guidance on items you've found less than satisfactory--it's funny, since I initially thought about ordering from there specifically because I'd heard the burgers were good, but then we've never ended up ordering a single burger. I'd also usually have tried the moussaka by now (in the absence of any pastitsio), but every time we pick up the phone, we remember how much we've loved exactly what we've ordered the previous times and just keep repeating the order. One of these days we'll want to open a bottle of wine and sit down for a proper dinner, and then I'll probably give the lamb shank and a wider variety of the meze a try. Will report back.

                    p.s. if you want to throw in any suggestions for what you consider to be the above average burgers in the neighborhood, I'm listening... (so far, DH likes Bonnie's and Dizzy's and that's about it).

                    1. re: planetjess

                      Regarding burgers, I'd nominate Bonnie's, Stone Park Café, and AOC Bistro on a good day. Possibly Sidecar too. Does that little French place Canaille serve a burger? If so I bet it's good.

                      1. re: Juanita

                        I'll have to give Sidecar and Canaille a try--Bonnie's is a standby which would fix my problem quite handily if they delivered, damn them. Stone Park has been one of my favorites since it opened, but it takes some doing to get my husband there--I would literally bathe in a tub of their short rib sandwich appetizers if I could, but DH is convinced they maliciously overcooked his steak once (stupid long story). I wouldn't have thought of AOC, which is pretty convenient for us, but I can see that their burger and frites would probably be good. I'm particularly partial to their pasta carbonara, strangely enough--IMO it's not actually a pasta carbonara, as it's in a cream sauce, but once I started ignoring what they happen to call it, I recognized it as an old friend--the kind of thing I used to be able to get at divy local French luncheonettes for cheap back when I was a poor student--cream and bacon and ham reduced for a few minutes, then applied to some tagliatelle, mmmmm.....

            2. re: MrsT

              Helios is not boarded up - the store on the oppposite corner is under construction.

              Helios took over the space of an old hispanic diner and kept the setup -they are really not a diner however.

              1. re: jen kalb

                As of yesterday, there was brown paper covering the windows.

                1. re: parkslopemama

                  they are renovating - new facade too in the last cpl of weeks. no reason right now to think its more than a renovation job. We will se.