Columnist Caitlin Weigel said Opa surpassed her previous Greek food experiences.
As a kid, the only image the word “Greece” conjured in my mind involved actors in their 30s hand-jiving at a high school dance.
Then, “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” came on the scene and the connotations became a little more accurate – Greece now made me think of Windex and that lost sheep of an ex-boy-band member, Joey Fatone. Still, if Greece happened to be mentioned in conjunction with food, I assumed we were talking about the residue left after a slice of pizza.
Then I was introduced to the wonder of the gyro.
My first gyro came from a fair along the Susquehanna River and consisted of some gray, chewy lamb stuffed into a pita with a few pale tomatoes, limp shreds of lettuce and a drizzle of runny yogurt sauce. Despite its less-than-gourmet status, I was hooked. My love of Greek food only grew as I was introduced to feta – the delightful white cheese that crumbles with ease and is equally suited atop a salad or melted on a marinated chicken breast.
And speaking of marinade – anyone growing up in Central Pennsylvania who has ever listened to the radio knows the unfortunately catchy jingle of Gazebo Room Salad Dressings & Marinade. Gazebo Room dressing and marinade – your taste buds will never be the same. The Greek dressing found its way into every summer dish my mom made – from a simple cucumber salad to veggie kabobs on the grill.
So it was with great excitement that I sought out Greek food in Philadelphia.
I found myself at Opa, tucked away on Samson Street near 13th Street. The interior is well-decorated with what appears to be a large basket rising up along the wall and curving over half of the bar area. The lunch menu features Greek paninis, gyros and even a burger with a Greek twist. Oregano, lemon, cucumbers and yogurt-based sauces are prevalent throughout, exemplifying classic Greek flavors. I ordered a plate of olives and fresh pita along with a lamb gyro and oregano fries.
The gyro was a far cry from my river fair experience. The pita was soft and warm and the lamb was the stuff of dreams – tender and flavorful. The oregano fries provided a crispy, salty contrast to the main focus of the meal.
My previous experience with olives – straight from a jar – told me that I should be able to just pop some of those suckers into my mouth, no problem. Unfortunately, these suckers had pits. I awkwardly choked on the first few I had tossed into my mouth, then tried to discreetly fish the pits out from my throat. I’m not exactly sure what the etiquette for eating pitted olives is, but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t involve making gagging sounds and sticking your finger in your own mouth, or anyone’s mouth for that matter.
As for a home version of some Greek food, I suggest whipping up a Greek omelet similar to the one featured on Opa’s menu.
You’ve watched the weekend Johnson and Hardwick dining hall crew enough to get the basic gist of how omelet making works. Crack some eggs, heat up a pan, swirl the egg-y goodness around until it’s flat and mostly cooked through. In another pan, heat up some spinach and tomatoes, and then throw it on top of your egg mixture.
Sprinkle it with some feta crumbles and wait for the cheese to melt before folding the whole thing in half. The folding part may get tricky and you would probably lose points on presentation if you were on a cooking show, but thankfully, you’re not on a cooking show and you can just stuff the whole thing in your mouth before anyone comments on how ugly it looks.
For those interested in further expanding their knowledge of Greek food, I highly recommend Opa. They have a pretty killer happy hour featuring $1 skewers and $3 craft beers. That might just be enough to get you saying, “Opa!” and using Windex to heal your warts.
Caitlin Weigel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.