Monday, April 19, 2010

Epicurean Adventures: Greek, Gyros, Grape Leaves, Good!

I have to say, with all the coupons and circulars flying around (apparently, as a renter in New Orleans, I was not an ideal recipient of these kinds of things, but as a homeowner, I'm the target audience ... go figure), it's been easier to force myself out of my comfort zones to try new restaurants and explore the neighborhoods I already love but don't know anything about even after living on the South Shore of Long Island for half a year now. However, as readers here know, I get on my kicks and tend to stay on them for some time, boring y'all with different stories about the same food on a particularly bad bender (fried shrimp po-boy homages, anyone?) until Boy pushes me out of my happy rut.

Well, a similar situation caused me to finally try a place called the Aegean Cafe (if you click, make sure the sound is off, by the way) in the picturesque village of Sayville since we found this kickass coupon for "Buy 2 Gyros, Get a Small Greek Salad Free!" So since I was craving Greek salad from rival restaurant Greek Islands in Holbrook (their vinaigrette is so light, and honestly, kind of nostalgic for me of salad I've eaten in my youth), Boy urged me to consider going somewhere new. And so we did.

After passing by the restaurant twice due to the building numbers being all the fuck over the place and being distracted by all the cute boutiques, restaurants, and shops on Main Street, I scored a sweet parking spot almost right in front of the restaurant and was delighted to find that my silly driving around made me eligible for after-6 pm parking (no one-hour limits for me!) and took a picture of the facade to the confusion and disdain of two snotty-looking women sitting in the front window.

We came in, were greeted, and seated on the right side of the restaurant, away from the snotty women with the puss-faces, and in direct view of the takeout area, with tantalizing smells wafting my way through the stacked wine bottles directly in front of me. A big sheet of oversized cuts of baklava was visible, and stacks of boxes of almond cookies for $9.95 piled on the counter. Always promising!

An older lady with a slight accent was our server, and we showed her our coupon, which we'd neglected to read the fine print on being so distracted by the large "FREE!" on it -- and realized we couldn't get the free salad since that was for takeout only (weird that this is the case, whereas Buona Fortuna was the opposite, and was less appealing of a place to eat in). However, I was delighted that I could still add a Greek salad to my meal for only a few dollars.
Anyway, we started off with some sort of chickpea salad in an onion-y vinaigrette-y type of dressing that we spooned onto our hot, fluffy pita bread. Greek Islands in Holbrook had also had this, which I am a little curious about since Zorba the Greek, one of Long Island's more long-standing Greek places on the North Shore, and any of the Mediterranean places I'd ever visited in New Orleans, had never had such a thing.  The texture of whole chickpeas, I find vaguely satisfying in the way that only whole legumes can, and the onions were sweet next to the delicious tartness of the vinaigrette.

We ordered stuffed grape leaves (dolmades) which came with a creamy Greek yogurt sauce (tzatziki) with fresh mint in it, and more hot pitas. The lemon juice on the grape leaves gave them the acidic zest you need and I love, which was nicely countered by the mild cucumber yogurt sauce and puffy pita bread. The rice and herbs within the leaves were supremely tasty, and packed firmly enough not to fall apart when you cut into each dolmade, yet not so firm as to be hard.

Gyros were ordered by the both of us, and I added a Greek salad to mine (making the $8-and-change gyro a roughly $12 platter), requesting that Boy add fries to his for the same total price. He obliged me, and I agreed to share my salad with him. All was good.

The salad came out quickly, and although the vinaigrette was not as good as Greek Island in Holbrook, our Aegean Grill in Sayville did not disappoint. A hefty handful of red onions topped off big slices of fresh tomatoes and a pile of Feta cheese, and a pepperoncini and black olives added to the overall Greek-ness of the salad (I like the associated flavors they give to the salad, but don't actually eat them other than to roll them around a lot to push some flavor onto the lettuce leaves). It was crunchy, fresh, and big - what more could you ask? I had originally been craving a grilled salmon Greek salad, but, mmm, gyro ...

And that's what came out next. Big, overstuffed pitas hit the table, veritable cornucopias of fresh, clean veggies to lighten the rich, oily aromas of the slow-roasted lamb and beef mixture. The pitas at Aegean Cafe were consistently warm thoughout the whole meal, and this was no exception. Enveloping luscious, slightly crisped 'round the edge, thick shavings of flavorful meat, this gyro was juicy, meaty, and left nothing to be desired. It was all there, baby, from the generous dollop of tzatziki sauce oozing out the middle to the celebration of lettuce and red onions popping out the top.

Main course aside, it was rather fortunate that I hadn't gotten my own fries, piggy-pig-pig that I am, since $3 and change got you a dinner-plate full of the golden brown, diner-cut goodies. They were perfectly fried, well drained of excess oil, loudly crispy on the surface, and soft and hot in the middle.

In all, aside from the fact that they don't serve baba ganoush (which, I admit, isn't an exactly fair expectation considering it's an Arab dish and not Greek ... Damn you, Lebanon's Cafe, for confusing and spoiling me for five years! *Shakes fist.*), unlike the Mediterranean place, Bayshore Mediterranean Grill, run by the sweetest sweet gentlemen in Bay Shore (who gave me a free rice pudding just for coming by on a quiet night) this meal was a win all the way around. Thumbs up - now excuse me while I think about the appalling amount of food I just ate and attempt to be appropriately sorrowful about it.

Aegean Cafe
35 Main Street
Sayville, NY 11782

Greek Islands Restaurant
315A Main Street
Holbrook, NY

Zorba the Greek
572 Jefferson Plaza
Port Jefferson Station, NY 11776

Bayshore Mediterranean Grill Restaurant
164 E. Main Street
Bay Shore, NY 11706
(631) 647-4466


  1. Many thanks from the Sayville Aegean Cafe for this flattering review! We have placed a link to your blog on our facebook page. We have also since updated our website--no more annoying music, and have added coupons. Please come visit us again!

    1. Hi, Angela! I didn't see this until now ... sorry; I don't moderate my comments as much as I should! I've been a longtime customer now, so keep doing a great job! :)