By RICHARD DAVID CHAMBERLAIN
The sign says “Greek Diner Gyros and Subs” in giant white letters against a blue background. Only upon careful examination do the words “Victoria Park” sneak into view. This restaurant, a one-time Miami Subs franchise, is a local favorite, and while the signage is new, the menu is a tried-and-true mix of diner classics and Greek staples.
Olga Nikolaidis owns the joint with her family, and serves up some surprisingly good alternatives to fast-food fare. Our favorite here is an amazing Moussaka ($9.29), which in any other world would be called an eggplant casserole. It is a blend of seasoned ground beef and potatoes that do an adagio dance with sliced eggplant, topped with a Béchamel sauce. If you’re in the mood for a chicken dish, the Chicken Athenian ($12.79) is certain to please. It’s a baked breast that is stuffed to overflowing with spinach and feta cheese, and served with a Greek salad and potatoes. Moist and Mediterranean fresh. The idea of eating a grape leaf may not appeal to some, but when it’s wrapped around a Dolmathes ($4.49), any hesitation you may feel should disappear instantly.
These meat, onion and rice rolls come six to a serving and can easily be a main course if you’re in the mood for a dish that is both light and filling. Spanikopita is a Greek classic against which all other dishes are compared. In the version prepared here, the phyllo pastry is crisp and flakey, accented with spinach and feta, and served in a portion sized to feed the troops. Order it in combo with a Greek salad ($8.49) or on its own ($6.49) as a side dish. Either way—nostimos. The traditional Gyro ( p r o n o u n c e d “yee-ro” to the uninitiated) ($7.49) is a c o m p r e s s e d mix of beef and lamb that is cooked on a vertical rotisserie and sliced onto pita bread.
The taste difference at the Victoria Park Greek Diner is in the Tzatziki sauce—a blend of sour cream and cucumber that is whipped with garlic, dill and olive oil— that tops the Gyro sandwich. It’s sloppy and juicy—a four-napkin dish to be sure. And you’ll be happier because of it. The diner also serves a version with buffalo hot sauce called a Gyro Kaftero ($7.49). Both versions are served with crisp fries. Like diners worldwide, the Victoria Park Greek serves traditional (and not-sotraditional) breakfasts all day long. For $9.79, combine the Spanikopita, Gyro and two eggs—not cheap but a hearty plate that serves as breakfast and lunch.
The omelette menu includes plain ($4.59), Western— with ham, green peppers, onion and cheese ($6.29), Athos— feta and spinach ($6.29), Meat Lovers—sausage, bacon, ham, onion, green peppers and cheese ($7.59), Doliana—spinach, feta, onion and tomato ($7.29) and the Koromilia—spinach, feta, tomato and sausage ($7.29) or any combination you can concoct. The plates are all heaped with hash browns or home fries and served with toast or grits (well, this is the South). The Victoria Park Greek Diner is open daily at 6:30 a.m. for the early birds (7 a.m. on Sundays), and stays hopping through 4 p.m. in the afternoon.
Service can be a bit on the haphazard side with the gossip at the front register often too tempting to resist. It’s a family affair, after all. However, the food more than makes up for any service gaffs. The place is not only gay-friendly, they donate a portion of the daily till to HIV Research and Care. Sweet (and appreciated). Come hungry and tell them Florida Agenda sent you.
VICTORIA PARK GREEK DINER 1730 E Sunrise Blvd. Fort Lauderdale FL 954-759-0022