The Golden Olive feels like home, even if you're not Greek
Years ago, I knew a man named Bill, a single, middle-aged Manhattan attorney who never ate at home, not even breakfast. He frequented a limited...
Special to The Seattle Times
Sample dinner menu
|Greek sausage linguine||$15|
The Golden OliveGreek/Mediterranean
1712 N. 45th St., Seattle
Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday; 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday.
Prices: $$ (lunch $7-$11; dinner appetizers $6-$11; entrees $8-$15)
Drinks: Beer, wine, soft drinks
Parking: On street
Sound: Bouzouki music accompanies quiet conversation.
Who should go: Neighbors hungry for Greek home cooking.
Credit cards: All major cards.
Access: No obstacles.
Years ago, I knew a man named Bill, a single, middle-aged Manhattan attorney who never ate at home, not even breakfast. He frequented a limited repertoire of restaurants — Italian, Chinese, Japanese, American and French — none more than a few blocks from his apartment. He rotated among them according to his mood, showing up at each about once a week, ordering the same dish so often they didn't even bother handing him a menu.
They weren't fancy places or — heaven forbid — trendy. But the welcome was warm, the prices reasonable, the cooking reliable. He was there for sustenance and for a sense of home.
Bill would have loved The Golden Olive, I thought, observing owner Evyenia Haritos fussing over a couple and their baby. "Do you need a menu?" she asked. They shook their heads and proceeded to order a couple of gyros. She let them turn on the ceiling fan, because the baby likes to watch it spin from his high chair.
"So what's new?" is her ice breaker for another pair, even though she's only seen them once before. "Are you having wine tonight?"
The inexpensive Greek varietals that comprise the short wine list are displayed as part of the décor, next to the requisite photos of Greek scenery. The deep burgundy, dark green and dusky gold color scheme mimics olive hues. The place is small, with only about 30 seats and a sliver of a kitchen; customers headed for the loo must pass through the dishwashing room.
The Greek-born Haritos runs this unpretentious Wallingford spot with the help of her son, Niko, and daughter, Sophia, who is head chef. "If my son is waiting tables," Haritos says, "I'm probably at yoga, learning to stand on my head." Either that, or she's in the kitchen, whipping up everyday Greek specialties such as dolmades (stuffed grape leaves), keftethes (meatballs) or moussaka.
Leg of lamb is a Friday-and-Saturday-only treat. It's roasted with lots of whole garlic cloves poked into the flesh. Don't despair at the gray look of the meat; it's incredibly juicy and very tender. The new potatoes taste a little lemony, the carrots have a touch of dill and there's lots of broccoli — a favorite vegetable here.
Mousaka and pastitsio are both heavily ringed by vibrant green broccoli florets. Both of these layered casseroles are topped with béchamel, but I much preferred the moussaka, with its dusting of nutmeg and multitextured layering of eggplant, zucchini, potatoes and seasoned ground beef moistened with tomato. The pastitsio I tried tasted overbaked, the pasta was a bit limp, the meat a little dry, the béchamel listless.
Both the moussaka and the pastitsio come in meatless versions, as do dolmades. The minty mix of beef and rice stuffing the rolled grape leaves is very good; the vegetarian version swaps the meat for pine nuts. Either way, you get the same blanket of creamy lemon sauce, which is lighter than it looks and benefits both the dolmades and the herb-speckled carrots.
A touch of mint also enlivens both the Greek sausage and meatballs. The latter are roughly spherical, yielding globes of beef as big as tennis balls, swaddled in marinara and bedded on myzithra-dusted spaghetti — or if you prefer, served with rice pilaf and vegetables. The mildly spicy sausage further perks up linguine tossed with olive oil and an already lively array of other ingredients: spinach, fresh basil, sun-dried tomatoes, mushrooms, feta and lots of garlic.
Pistachios flavor another garlicky pasta dish. The ground nuts join sliced mushrooms and myzithra in a buttery sauce for spaghetti. But cold diced tomato scattered over this hot dish was a jarring note.
Avgolemono soup was also cold, or more precisely, hot and cold, as if it had been reheated in a microwave. Temperature issues aside, I much preferred the soup of the day: a robust vegetarian lentil soup.
Entree portions are so hearty that appetizers are best shared. Skip the spanakopita — the spinach filling is lackluster, the phyllo wilted. Instead try nubbins of octopus marinated in red wine vinaigrette, or deftly fried kalamari served with two sauces: a bold, roasted red pepper aioli and refreshing sour cream tzatziki thick with cucumber.
At lunch, that tzatziki is lavished on souvlaki and other pita-wrapped sandwiches, including the deservedly popular gyro (also available at dinner). Crumbled feta adorns the excellent Greek fries that come with it, though you may substitute soup or a salad.
Main-course salads are a lighter alternative at either lunch or dinner. Loads of kalamatas encircle the crisp horiatiki and crumbled feta nearly obscures thick cucumber and Roma tomato rounds, green pepper and red onion. Tart, fruity pomegranate vinaigrette invigorates spinach and beet salad embellished with pine nuts, garbanzo beans and goat cheese.
Nine o'clock sharp is closing time, but I noticed that didn't stop two pretty women laden with shopping bags from sweet-talking their way in for a sandwich. "They're regulars," confided Niko with a shrug, as we paid our bill. "They eat fast."
Providence Cicero: email@example.com
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
When vice president of Sub Pop Records Megan Jasper isn't running things at the office, she's working in her garden at her West Seattle home where she and her husband Brian spend time relaxing.