Just a short time ago, The Sweet Auburn Curb Market (SACM) in Downtown Atlanta was an afterthought in the cityscape. Then, late in 2009, Grindhouse Killer Burgers got things rolling. Since then, SACM hasn’t looked back. In the midst of this buzz, The Greek Gyros and Pizza has hopped on the wagon and opened its countertop restaurant. As dumb luck would have it, they opened just a few hours before the dude who feasts and I showed up. I’d like to say that our visit was entirely impromptu, but alas, it was not! We had planned this excursion late last night. We both think it fun to see where things stand from the get go. So far, the Greek is looking pretty good.
Like most every establishment at Sweet Auburn, The Greek is a counter top eatery that doubles as a kitchen. As for the market itself, which is responsible for the atmosphere and vibe, it is the closest thing Atlanta has to the famed Pike Place Market in Seattle. High ceilings, a plethora of food stands, and even a couple of vegetable, meat, and fish dealers take up the overwhelming majority of the space. While it’s a far cry from many of the famous markets in other cities, there’s a life to the environment that is not to be missed. It’s teeming with potential, and maybe with some luck, this market will find its way onto the cities main page much liked it did way back when it opened in 1918.
The man behind The Greek is John Gianoulidis. Johnny, as he likes to be called, is a longtime resident of Atlanta and has, along with some members of his family, been a key cog at several area restaurants. Perhaps the most well-known of these establishments is Christo’s Pizza in Marietta. However, this song and dance is 100% Johnny. Even if you haven’t seen him before, it’s rightly obvious that the tattoo sporting hombre carries a smile and a work like hell attitude. It fits him and his marketplace restaurant like a glove.
When we did show up around noon, word was already out. Several people were eating happily at the Greek’s own counter as well as at some of the nearby communal tables. I’ve already heard that another couple of foodie gents made their way over just a few hours after we did. So even though the grand opening isn’t until April 14th, Johnny will gladly trade you food for cash at this time
The menu at the Greek is tight and straightforward. Nothing inventive or chef driven here; this place offers straight up food at a more than fair price. After rummaging over the appetizers (Hummus, tsatsiki with pita, dolmades, etc… all around $4) we settled in on the Greek’s main offer: the gyro wraps. At $6.45 a pop, these ample sized sandwiches showed up encased head to toe in tinfoil. Once I unwrapped my gyro, I was witness to a messy, cheesy, creamy meat torpedo. If you’ve ever walked the streets of New York and grabbed a wrap from one of their many carts, this will immediately strike a chord with you.
The meat was fresh of the spit, the bread was pillowy, and the housemade Tsatsiki sauce was running wild. No, this isn’t some fancy shmancy take on a classic … this is straight up in your face gyro. Messy, full of feta (at our request), and comforting. While our bites didn’t carry with them the heavenly flavors of something from Cafe Agora, this Buddha left his wrapper with nothing more than a juicy aftermath. While the example wasn’t highly unique, the absence of any “farm to table” pretentiousness was not a bad thing. With the slices of tomato and freshly cut onion, this had everything it needed. It’s worth noting that my dinning buddy was also extremely pleased with his gyro; however, he had some aversion to the somewhat frequent dense pockets of Feta. I myself loved that aspect to the sandwich, but he was more prone to the areas where the Feta was spread a little more “appropriately.” Regardless of our cheesy predilections, we both liked what we had.
After mowing down my gyro, I made a beeline for the large box still on the table. Inside was a cheese knee slice of pie that screamed nothing other than: “Your doctor still loves you, your doctor still loves you!” For any person who has seen a Greek make a pizza, this will be highly familiar. It’s not gourmet, it’s not truly special, but it is entirely a guilty pleasure pie. If you fancy yourself a gourmand, don’t stop here. But if you a slight twist on the everyman pizza that this country has waxed prolific with, then you’ll be right at home. The crust is crunchy, but absent of anything close to a “char.” It’s butter soaked and full of badness, just where it should be. Meanwhile, the sauce is used sparingly as the crisped and bubbled layer of cheese is the star of this heart attack waiting to happen. There’s a punchiness to the queso that will make you re-think standard pizza and everything blends together just as it should. It’s a tangy, rich, fatty bite. This isn’t a place for critics … it’s a place to sit down, enjoy your food, and be really glad that you did. Like i said, as a guilty pleasure pie – I’m good with it.
Things at the Greek have started off very well. The man who runs it knows what he’s doing, so I don’t expect much of a change in either direction. Add in the friendly service, the kick ass setup, and the low cost of a meal (ours was $17.00 and included two big bottled waters), and this is a great addition to the market. To put it another way, it’s as good as anything else in the Market. Yes, I like the transcendence of Agora, but this is nothing to scoff at, nothing to be ashamed off, and nothing to be snobbish about. No reservations required, so I say, kick back and enjoy!
Oh yeah, it’s in the market, so lunch is what you get (11-4 M-F, Sat 11-3)