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Monday, August 11, 2008

Uptown Saturday Nights

“Unless You've Tried Our Food... You Cannot Compare!!”

So says the menu at Spartan Souvlaki, and they've got a point. It is hard to equate without having tasted the goods. The only problem? I was hungry, friend. Ravenous to the point of distraction. And those wondrous smells of a whole pig roasting on a nearby spit weren't helping me focus. What's more we had just arrived, and this is not a restaurant where the eats comes quickly.
Owner George Lykourezos models a plate of delicious Slow Spartan cuisine

Nor should they. Slow Food is all the rage these days, and Spartan Souvlaki is guided by a deliberate “made to order” mantra. They prepare a good deal of their menu – from the namesake kebabs to fantastic savory pies – upon request. So if you decide to dine here, remember the old saying: “something something good to those who wait.”
Delightful Duo: Spartan Souvlaki's Cheese and Spinach Pies are well worth the wait...
...especially paired with a fresh Tomato Salad

That said, a bit of strategy helps the more anxious of eaters. So start by ordering a pair of pies, even before you've received your menus. Both the cheese and spinach take about twenty minutes to bake, and bear little in common with the standard slabs of heavy-set Diner spanikopita. The spinach is light and lightly seasoned, a buttery model of restraint served straight from the oven. The cheese – elegant, whipped, oozing with flavor – bears more in common with a french soufflé. Order each with a side of Tomato, feta, onion and olive salad, and your palate will be officially whet for the meat to come.
Htapodi (grilled octopus)
Locaniko (sausage)

As you move to heartier fare consider the tender, well-seasoned beef (!) gyro served in a fluffy pita with a big dollop of their garlicky homemade tsatsiki. While both the Souvlaki (sold by the skewer) and Grilled Octopus (htapodi, $6.75) were tasty, their execution was uneven: somewhere between satisfying and slightly overcooked, depending on the day. No such guesswork was needed for the Greek Sausage (locaniko, $5.95), whose distinctive flavor comes from its unusual spicing: an aromatic mixture of orange peel, mint and oregano. Add a twist of fresh lemon juice, order a Mythos beer ($5), and wait for the main course.
Large Plate of Lemon Potatoes, which may take valuable eating time away from...
What you came for: Large Plate of Roast Pork

I should emphasize main. Unlike most NYC Greek joints, Spartan Souvlaki doesn't dabble in the usual suspects (moussaka, pastitsio, et al). Nor will you miss them – especially on a Saturday Night. This is when the Lykourezos Family rolls out the big guns: two spit-roasted pigs.
M.A.W.: George Lykourezos spends the evening creating a memorable pork experience
Yes, giddy reader, Saturdays is Roast Pork Day – “my favorite day of the week!,” our waitress (George's daughter) Christine confided. And I can't help but agree. Weather permitting, her father wakes up at 7am to season two pigs and slow roast them over a bed of natural wood coals. After rotating the better part of the day, the meat is falling off the bone and ready to eat.

I know “falling off the bone” is a dull cliché, but there really is no other way to describe these hogs. By 7pm ribs were literally dropping from the carcass. The meat was as tender as any fine barbecue, with a supremely clean flavor and strong smokey presence to boot. George's seasoning enhances without overwhelming, and a sprinkle of oregano-seasoned salt finishes the meat with modest flair. Rich, moist, succulent: any handful of adjectives will do. But also fall short; this is something you should experience firsthand.Taste aside, one other detail sets this pig roast apart. George takes great care in assembling each plate, providing samples of different sections of the pig. Our (Large, $24) plate was an ode to the Dionysian joys of entire-animal-eating, a cornucopia of ribs, tenderloin chunks, leg hunks, and plump shoulder slices. The overall effect is simple and sublime: we experienced the many different flavors to be had from a whole hog, a variety of textures and meatiness that kept us exploring long past the point of “full.”
George's son Louie Lykourezos, serving up the meze

And that, in a nutshell, is Spartan Souvlaki: warm, generous, thoughtful. Don't be mislead by the decor (vaguely reminiscent of a “classy” strip club), or the apparently hectic pace (the waitstaff rarely, if ever, stands still). Most of the workers are related (George's daughters are waitresses, his son a chef, his wife the hostess), and they will make you feel genuinely welcomed. As for the extremely affable owner, George sets a buoyant tone. A plumber and contractor for 23 years, he gave up his former trade to share fresh, straight-forward Greek food in a thoroughly unpretentious environment. And he hasn't looked back.

The results are something to savor, friend. So whether you consider yourself a meat enthusiast, enjoy outdoor dining, liked that movie “300,” or simply appreciate warm down-to-earth people sharing mighty fine pork, Spartan Souvlaki should be tops on your list of outings this summer. It's our feel-good story of the season!

Spartan Souvlaki
6820 8th Avenue
Dyker Heights, Brooklyn
(718) 748-5838
Open Monday-Saturday, 11:30am-10pm

Cash only. Bring enough for a large plate of Roast Pork ($24), a large Tomato Salad ($9.25), a gyro or locanikos appetizer (around $6), a couple of their pies ($4.50), and a few Mythos Beers ($5).

Two pigs (120 lbs of meat) are roasted, and eaten, every Saturday as the weather permits. Outdoor tables provide a ringside view.



Blogger Manger La Ville said...

My boyfriend is part greek and loves the hog, so I think I am going to surprise him and take him next saturday night. This looks delicious. Again, great post!!!

12:10 AM  
Blogger Erika said...

Thanks for posting! We live about half a mile from here and pass it frequently, but usually on Sundays when it's closed (on our way back from produce shopping at 3 Guys). We headed over around 8pm, as pork supply was dwindling. They were rationing to one order per table. The best part was watching the reactions of the passers-by, especially as George was giving away ribs just before closing! OK, the real best part was the food. Again, many thanks!

11:51 AM  
Blogger Lester Hunt said...

Mythos. Wow, what a great name!

1:07 AM  
Blogger J. Slab said...

manger - you & yr boyfriend are stoked. wont be let down.

erika - that's a good point about the time, probably no later than 7pm is best. it's a ridiculous amount of pork that disappears in 3 hours. glad you got some tho...

lester - definitely better than 'pathos', right?

9:45 AM  
Blogger Mary said...

Wow that looks fabulous! Thanks for the post and the marvelous photos to boot!

2:20 PM  

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