Before taking off for Portland I hurriedly said goodbye to friends in between packing and long locked dewy eyed stares with my Significant (m)Other. I met up at George's Greek Cafe in Belmont Shores with one of my Greek friends, Evangelos (The Vange), who lucky for me wasn't in the motherland like everyone else. George's Greek Cafe is a place I've been to several times that has always been solid, but never seemed to have that WOW factor. It's old school Greek food made by the generation that migrated 50 years ago; poor Greeks that came here with nothing that have worked hard to make it and live the American Dream. And it's happened. There are three George's locations in (two in Long Beach and one in Lakewood) and always a steady flow of customers happily chatting away as live Greek music strums in the background.
We started off with their house salad, which should be a classical Greek salad, but ended up being more of a lettuce salad with kalamata olives, onions and feta - drenched in an Italian vinaigrette tasting dressing. Nothing spectacular here.
Next we asked for beef dolmades with tzatziki sauce. I have to give George's props for this one. I was totally surprised at how fresh and delicious these grape leaves wrapped in spiced ground beef were. The dolmades were served warm so it was a nice contrast with the cool tzatziki.
Evangelos got the swordfish, which he let me sample. It was perfectly cooked with optimal char marks, super fresh and extremely tasty. The accompanying rice pilaf and vegetables are an example of how George's is old school Greek. No one really ever eats the pilaf and vegetables and this is not what would be traditionally served in Greece. It's Greek food that was trying to please the American palate from 20-30 years ago and hasn't changed.
Stellar Swordfish, Sleepy Sides
I had an itching for lamb, so I ordered the lamb sandwich pita, which came with more so-so salad. It was cute how they sprinkled parsley on my wrapped up sammie. The lamb chunks were generous in quantity and again, perfectly cooked. Sometimes the meat in a sandwich is inferior quality - with lots of gristle and miscellaneous chunks of fat. Not this one - it was pure lamb muscle bathed in a cucumber-tomato-tzatziki salsa.
Lamb Sammie Exposure Therapy
For dessert, my favorite, galaktoboureko, was ordered. I love the smooth semolina custard layered between crispy syrup laced phyllo. George's was standard galaktoboureko. Not the best nor the worst I've ever had.
We chuckled when our waiter asked us if we wanted our kataifi with chocolate sauce and ice cream. Obviously, this is something done to please the American palate. Greek desserts are super sweet to start with so it behooves me to have it sans the extra fluff. Kataifi is a shredding wheat looking version of phyllo. Inside is a tunnel of cinnamon spiced walnuts. Not the best or worst I've had, but it was fresh.
Kataifi made for the masses
As we finished our dishes, the musician playing downstairs came upstairs to chat with us. Evangelos is an avid accordion player so they have jammed together a couple of times in the past. He came from Athens nearly 50 years ago and has yet to return to Greece.
The Vange in full effect!
George's Greek Cafe
5316 E 2nd Street
Long Beach, CA 90803