Saturday, March 10, 2012

Olympic Cafe - North Park (SD)

Greek God
The familial embrace surrounding Olympic Cafe is stronger than an uncle's playful headlock. Waitresses come forth like a colony of aunts, as if to say “eat up” with their encouraging smiles, and in classic diner fashion, deliver chocolate milk unstirred - the inch of Hershey’s syrup and my spoon clanking against the glass sent me directly back to my childhood in Jersey. Olympic definitely captures an east coast vibe that could contend with the Garden State's traditional, Greek diners and has become my go-to while living in San Diego.

Greek diners = gyros. Whether it’s breakfast (gyro omelet anyone?), lunch or dinner, Olympic shaves thin strips off a rotating carousel of mixed meat (none of those frozen, nitrate nightsticks seen here). Warm pitas overflow with this lamb/beef hybrid, fully loaded with lettuce, tomato and onion. But these additions pale in comparison to the homemade tzatziki sauce - the best I’ve ever had. Why? Olympic's version is thinner and a bit more tangy, similar to a vinaigrette vs. the lumpy, thick condiment that's the usual suspect.

And I’d been hitting the (tzatziki) sauce pretty hard. I even started ordering it as a side with extra pitas for superfluous dipping, but my addictions didn’t end there. Olympic’s mashed potatoes were worthy of recreating the scene from Scarface where Al Pacino sticks his nose in a pile of coke and looks up with his face covered. Switch me with Al and the cocaine with potatoes, and this is my habitual experience here (lemony, chicken gravy makes it all the messier). When I started ordering two helpings, I knew I had a problem.

That’s why I thought I’d detox with their signature Olympic salad because eating these greens doesn’t even feel like a sacrifice. Playing-card-size slabs of feta, pulled from a briny bath, set the stage for some acidic anarchy with kalamata olives, pepperoncinis, and of course, a generous helping of gyro meat on top is better than any crouton. The option for take-out and the addition of homemade baklava give Olympic the edge, and their attention to authentic, irreplaceable details prove it's all Greek to me.