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Mar 20, 2014 08:43 PM

Where Have All the Greek Restaurants Gone?

When I first came to Cambridge in the early '70's, there were quite a few Greek restaurants. There was a really good place on Mass Ave near the Door Store; and there were 2 or 3 places between Harvard and Porter Squares. (one might still be there, white and sky blue exterior, next to Mexican Cuisine (? now?) Back then , my fav neighborhood place was Greek, located downstairs,( across from Rendezvous/Burger King) in Central Sq. It made a real impression on me when the owner told me he was closing his shop and moving back home.

Does anyone remember those spots and do you agree that there are many fewer Greek restnts here now? I can't speak for Boston or Allston, but maybe Greek places have disappeared there too? Do you think maybe Greek restnts went "out of fashion" and have been replaced by Middle Eastern restnts?

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  1. Daddy Jones is a new version Greek restaurant.
    I recall a Greek-run (I think) greasy spoon diner in Davis Sq where the Blue Shirt Cafe is now.

    1. They were in that area because there was more of a Greek population concentration, My friend who was Greek lived there when he was in college for that reason. People moved on and out of the city; from the volume of Greek churches and food festivals in the summer it seems like there still is a substantial population around the region.

      I like the Aegean which has a location in Framingham and one in Watertown. Both are great. The Framingham location is much larger.

      257 Cochituate Road, Route 30
      Framingham, MA

      640 Arsenal St.
      Watertown, MA

      12 Replies
      1. re: latertater

        The aegean has been around awhile, but those who do a CH search will see that i am not the only one who finds the Aegean completely yuck.

        I have tried shish kabob sandwich, gyros, moussaka, spanakopita at Esperia, Desfina, Greek Corner. GC and Desfina have pretty good kabobs but tough meat, and their moussaka is major meh. (I haven't ordered the well-lauded GC roast lamb sandwich because i love lamb but only med rare, not well done.)I think Esperia (thank you kimfair)easily beats the others on moussaka and all the side dishes, and the pork gyro is very tasty.

        pianoboy, did any of these parents move back to Greece? Because of that early experience i had, i always wondered if maybe Greeks missed their homeland more than other ethnic groups, such that it was common for them to make some money in america and then return home.

        1. re: opinionatedchef

          <<"other ethnic groups, such that it was common for them to make some money in america and then return home.">>

          my friend says the same about the Irish...

          1. re: Gastronomos

            And the Brazilians, Columbians and Canadians.

          2. re: opinionatedchef

            Opchef, have you tried Brothers Kouzina in Peabody? We like their spanakopita, green beans, roasted potatoes and greek salad esp with swordfish better than most. Have known others to really like their lamb. Wish we could find veggie versions of moussaka, pastichio... On Sat nites at 10 they pull the shades, put on white linens and have Greek music with a limited meze type menu..

            1. re: chompie

              hi there, she who chomps, good to know about BK;thx. I betcha the woman owner of Esperia would make you a half hotel pan of veg.moussaka if you called her.(I mean, all she has to do is leave out the layer of meat.) It freezes well. We usually have some of her (meat) moussaka in the freezer. Her beschamel is really lovely. ( I guess it's very ungreek of me, but I need tomato sauce on my moussaka, so i buy her 'marinara' to put on it.)

              1. re: opinionatedchef

                good idea..i have thought of asking someone to do that but never did... Does her "marinara" have that nice subtle hint of cinnamon? We get the pasta dishes at BK too, because the sauce is better than most Italian places. . They seem to have a few variations on fhe red sauce.. the one on the string beans with the slight cinnamon touch, the one they use on lamb dishes with an oilier meaty touch, and the pasta sauce with a traditional Italian flavor but more on the mild less acid side...

                1. re: chompie

                  I didn't detect any cinnamon in hers. I understand exactly what you are saying about the 3 diff tomato sauces but i must share w/ you my one funny story about that- and that was the time, years ago, that i talked to a chef about some sauce that differed subtly from dish to dish- and what did he do to make them different,....and he looked at me with puzzlement and told me that they were all the same sauce!! did that throw me for a loop or what?!
                  haHA! (I'm not insinuating anything; just wanted to share a laugh with you.)

            2. re: opinionatedchef

              I get the lamb sammy at GC regularly - it is never well done. Always med rare - of course I make sure to order it so. Try it. You'll like it! :) I am having GC leftovers for lunch today, as a matter of fact. :)

              1. re: Small Plates

                well far out! someone on this thread (or my other Greek thread on Gen'l Topics) declared that Greeks like their lamb well done, so i was assUming (always a big mistake) that's what GC did. Now we'll zip over soon, bec you ad Stripey luuuuuuvs this sdwch!! Thx so much for that clarification.

                1. re: opinionatedchef

                  just outta curiosity, who, other than the northern French and Francophiles worldwide liked their lamb rare? I have not seen a culture outside of the northern French that served lamb other than well done.



                  1. re: Gastronomos

                    I cook several legs a year - all to rare, medium rare. All of the family and friends enjoy them.

                    I'm Welsh-American, cooking for a predominately Jewish-American (NYC) family. Nobody I know wants their lamb grey and overcooked.

                    1. re: NE_Wombat

                      "cooking for a predominately Jewish-American (NYC) family."

                      and I supplied links for your amusement.

          3. Greek Corner on Mass Ave is still going strong -- always popular and never had a bad meal there. Love their roasted lamb sandwich.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Boston_Otter

              They do a great fried calamari plate,

              1. There was an upscale Greek restaurant in Charlestown near Sorelle and the original Olives that became a Max and Dylan's and now is a Papagayo. Can't remember the name of the place, but it was so good.....the olives and olive oil and feta that came out as soon as you were seated were just amazing. Lots of vegetables and great meat dishes as well. And I loved the chance to taste some different Greek wines.

                I always wondered what happened to it. It was not at all a typical Greek "joint". There is still Steve's on Newbury St and as has been mentioned, Greek Corner near Porter.

                We tried Desfina in East Cambridge only once....years ago...was a bit disappointing. Any recent reports?

                5 Replies
                1. re: Madrid

                  That place was great, the one time I got to eat there. Don't remember the name, but it was quite good. My go-to Greek is still Esperia Grill in Brighton Center, but I miss the old Deli King that used to be at the corner of Harvard and Comm Ave where the McDonald's is now. They had a killer moussaka, and great house made corned beef hash.

                  1. re: kimfair1

                    Just looked it up. It was
                    Meze Estiatorio
                    and then became "Copia" more pan-Med before closing and becoming Max and Dylan's. Perhaps it was a bit ahead of its time. People weren't (and aren't, perhaps) used to spending on high priced Greek entrees. As is my usual, I always went for the meze and small plates and found it wonderful as well as good value. Great view of the Zakim bridge, hard to park. Lots of Freedom Trail walkers going past, unlikely to spend much $$$ on a quick pit stop.

                    1. re: Madrid

                      I believe it was Copia when we went, still excellent, but I could tell that they weren't going to make it, based on the location, and type of food.

                      1. re: kimfair1

                        We only went once & also thought how sad they weren't going to make it.

                      2. re: Madrid

                        Just to be contrary, we ate at Meze once as part of restaurant week and although I well know restaurant week can be hit or miss, we had a truly awful meal. I always assumed that was why it closed.

                        Agree on Greek Corner- really good gyros which you can see being made on an episode Diners Drive ins and Dives if you care to.

                  2. I come from a city with a large Greek population. It had many Greek restaurants and they too have diminished in number. I've asked why. The response has largely been this: most Greek restaurants were run by immigrants who were home cooks, not restaurant people. (They tell me there wasn't a deep restaurant culture in much of Greece, but I don't know about that.) Unlike other cuisines where new generations came in who were from restaurants (and hotels, etc.), there has been relatively less of that from Greece. So the restaurants become less Greek and you find Greek-Americans doing all sorts of food with maybe a nod here and there toward Greek cooking. Last year, I asked the owner of Esperia about Greek food and the chef (the wife) told me Greek food is meant for the home.

                    I have no idea how much of this is true. It would seem to me that any cuisine can carve a niche - like Chinese(ish) food in every strip mall in the South - so the actual number of Greeks in the US shouldn't be the issue.

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: lergnom

                      I will chime in with, yes, the Greeks from Greece that came to the US ended up in simple restaurants and take out places.

                      I'm about a 45 min drive from Astoria, NYC, a city with many Greeks.

                      Greek Cuisine is on the rise in the US and abroad.

                      The restaurant culture in Greece is not as high played as in France and Francophile communities around the globe.
                      And I recall a few very casual French restaurants in Paris and the countryside that were nothing but eateries with homestyle food.

                      As for, "the owner of Esperia about Greek food and the chef (the wife) told me Greek food is meant for the home."

                      I understand what she was probably trying to say, but I cannot agree completely. Greek Cuisine, as long as one has a sense of true cookery outside of French centered technique, which is not the be all and end all of food in restaurants or the world, can very easily be adapted to a restaurant. But the large trays of pastichio and mousaka are not that at all.

                      And as with any immigrant community, many come here for a better life for their children. They don't want their kids working 16+ hours a day, 7 days a week in factory restaurants. So they close or sell their restaurants when they retire cause the kids went and got edjumacated.

                      The chefs we see today are not what these immigrants know, at all. Two different worlds. Restaurateurs and such were not doing Greek.

                      They sell to the next wave of immigrants, like in the UK, Middle Easterners.

                      One note to ponder: The Greek food they were able to communicate to the new audience they were introduced to happened to be street food. Souvlaki, Gyro, Spanakopita, etc.
                      We’ve seen in some cities in the US a huge jump from heat and serve commercially made gyro in a commercially made pita with commercially made tzatziki to an “upscale” Greek Cuisine dining scene. Wow. No steps. Just a poor jump to the top. So we saw those original places die instantly and now have more than enough of simple grilled fish places with a frozen and microwaved to order tray of moussaka and pastichio.


                      1. re: Gastronomos

                        :nodding: My maternal grandparents ran one of those diners/takeout places when they first established themselves here. 17-18 hours/day, 6 days a week. The only time the family got together was for Sunday dinner at home. I remember my mother telling me the menu was hybrid -- half Greek for their fellow immigrants, but they also offered a lot of "regular" type meals for the Irish folk, which basically translated to "bland".

                        What I always found interesting was that neither of my grandparents wanted to continue the old world traditions once they landed here. My grandmother, in particular, wanted to assimilate so badly that she convinced my grandfather to pay for her to take elocution lessons so she's lose her accent. My grandfather eventually did the same. Neither of them spoke Greek at home and didn't force my mother and her brothers to attend Greek school. By the time my mother graduated from high school -- this was right before WWII, BTW -- the only remnant of her heritage she had besides "the store" was her surname and my grandmother's Sunday dinners.

                        Thankfully she passed down a lot of recipes to my mother, who in turn passed them down to me. My grandmother was illiterate, so my mother had to transcribe how my grandmother made something by following her around with a notebook and pen!

                          1. re: xo_kizzy_xo

                            thanks for the post. it really puts things in perspective. not everything is as some want it to seem.

                            i myself am raised by a father and mother born and raised in cities, not villages. educated and immigrated to the US already speaking english and worked in professional careers.

                            may i ask you where your grandparents were from?

                            1. re: xo_kizzy_xo

                              so interesting. today i asked my hairdresser about this. he grew up in Somville 2nd generation italian. His experience was that all the Italians stayed and many/most of the Greeks returned home after raising the kids to get a good education here. Anyway, that was his experience. I forgot to tell him that one of you said that, in greece, pizza joints are never owned by Greeks.

                              1. re: xo_kizzy_xo

                                Thanks for sharing very interesting.

                                My grandparents came here in there 60's from Greece, they passed away in there 80's and never learned english.

                                Im not sure if my grandmother was illiterate but I don't think she wrote greek or english and my white mom had to follow her around to write down the recipes too. My yaya never measured anything. I cup wasn't a cup it was a tea cup and tea spoon was a actual tea spoon. lol Makes it very hard to make her kourabeithe recipe at Christmas as I'm sure my teacup isn't the same as hers.