Sunday, April 21, 2013

Galveston is an Island

This may be my stating the obvious, but until we arrived here, it wasn’t obvious to me. I had assumed that Galveston was a city located directly on Texas’ Gulf Coast.

But Galveston is separated from the “mainland” on the west by a channel, and it is along this side of the city that the cruise ships dock and where the Port of Galveston is located. This is what I consider to be the “quiet side” of the city and is part of the Historic Strand District (to be the subject of future blogging). On the east is the “wild side” on the Gulf of Mexico and here are located most of the tourist attractions and beaches. And on both sides of the city there is an Olympia Grill.

“Welcome to Olympia! Let us tell you a bit about ourselves. We are first generation Greek-Americans born and raised in Galveston, Texas. We credit our father (owner of Seawall Café) and our uncle (owner of The Golden Greek) for teaching us to follow in their footsteps as great restaurateurs. In their kitchens we were taught Gulf Coast, Creole, and Greek cooking styles” (

“Larry and Tikie Kriticos were born and raised in Galveston, Texas. They are first-generation Greek Americans. Their father, Gus, came to Galveston from the Island of Patmos, Greece and opened the Seawall Cafe on 17th Street (1946) in Galveston. Their mother Nora's family came from Sparta, Greece. The Golden Greek Restaurant belonged to their Uncle Paul and Aunt Beaulah Santire. In other words, the pros at Olympia Grill come from a long line of great Greek Cooking and have unparalleled experience in the restaurant industry” ( (In the photo: Papou means "grandpop")

For some reason, the Olympia Grill on Seawall (Gulf side of Galveston) seemed to get better on-line reviews than did the harbor-side Grill, and so it was at the former that we had lunch on Saturday. I must admit that I was expecting an order-at-the-counter restaurant, so was surprised when it proved to be a full-service restaurant complete with full bar area and elaborate Grecian statuary.

The Grills have amassed a number of local dining awards. In the Galveston Daily News “Readers Choice 2012” they have been named Best Local Restaurant, Best Lunch, Best Salad, and Best Greek Food. And reviewers specifically referred to the quality of their fish and seafood offerings.

After a lengthy study of the menu, Chuck finally decided to order his Mediterranean restaurant staple—the lamb and beef gyro with fries. This was a gargantuan version of this classic “sandwich” stuffed full of seasoned meat along with tomatoes, onion, and wonderful tzatziki (more on this later). The fries appeared to be house-cut and were nicely crisp on the outside and moist and steamy inside.

Since shrimp harvesting is a major local industry I considered ordering one of the many shrimp-based items on the menu. But, instead, I went in another direction and chose the Zeus Appetizer Sampler with tzatziki (left bowl), hummus (center bowl), skordayia (right bowl), yolandji dolmas, feta cheese, and kalamata olives served with pita bread.

I said above that this was wonderful tzatziki and I attribute this to the quantity of shredded cucumber. The recipe is posted on the Grill’s website and calls for one cup of Greek yogurt, one cup of sour cream and, along with seasonings, an entire shredded cucumber.

This was not my favorite version of hummus. While it had a moderately strong garlic presence, there didn’t appear to be any tahini. Is this the difference between Greek hummus and Lebanese hummus?

The final dip—the skordayia—was new to me. “Skordalia or skordhalia/skorthalia (σκορδαλιά [skorðaˈʎa]; in Greek also called αλιάδα 'aliada/aliatha) is a thick puree (or sauce, dip, spread, etc.) in Greek cuisine made by combining crushed garlic with a bulky base—which may be a purée of potatoes, walnuts, almonds, or liquid-soaked stale bread—and then beating in olive oil to make a smooth emulsion…” ( The Grill’s version had sweet undertones along with a measure of spice.

Dolmas or stuffed grape leaves have never been among my favorites, but I will admit that these were fairly good since they didn’t taste as if the leaves had been preserved in brine. And, while I am not certain of this, I think that the term “yolandji” is a derivation of “yalancı” which means “liar” in Turkish and refers to dolmas made without meat.

For reasons that I can’t begin to explain, I prefer Lebanese-style Mediterranean to Greek-style, but this still proved to be a satisfying meal and earns 4.0 Addies.

To review the role of Adler, Kitty Humbug, and the Addie rating system, read the November 14, 2011 blog.

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