George Stamopoulos is exhausted. Two weeks ago he opened Eat Greek in Glasnevin, and it’s taken off.
“We’re really happy. It’s been crazy busy,” he says, setting up on a Saturday morning. “It’s more than we were expecting.”
The food, he says, is all traditional Greek fare, and, a fortnight into his venture, he thinks his Greek education of the Irish palate is working.
Moussaka and Mpriam
Sat in the middle of a small row of shops near Cross Guns Bridge, Eat Greek looks like a fast-food joint.
The space was home to those kinds of takeouts in the past, and Stamopoulos says some customers expect the same.
But to the counter’s side, half a dozen dishes sit under Plexiglas. Behind, a large hunk of meat spins and drips. This, Stamopoulos explains later, is for gyros, their signature dish.
The space isn’t big, it borders on cramped, and can seat about 12 at a push in the front. To the back and up a small flight of stairs, a row of tables sits another 10 or so.
The dishes on the menu are varied and colourful, healthy and hearty. That’s because, says Stamopoulos, one of his partners in the venture is a Greek chef with two restaurants back in their home city of Patras.
It’s this that makes the dishes. “And a lot of the ingredients are fresh every day,” he says. “That’s it, that’s how you do it.”
The starters – from organic olives to kefalotiri saganaki, pan-fried organic cheese – cost between €3 and €7.
The mains, mostly Greek standards, vary from moussaka to beef kokkinisto, mpriam to soutzoukakia, a dish of cumin- and cinnamon-infused meatballs in a rich tomato sauce.
These come in between €9 and €12.
A Grecian Education
Lined up in separate trays Saturday evening, the mains wait for a punter. There’s no shortage tonight.
Gemista, stuffed vegetables with rice and herbs, sits alongside the moussaka, with its meat, aubergines, potatoes and béchamel sauce.
Stamopoulos runs to and fro, managing orders. At a table, a young Irish couple finish their moussaka and wait to place a dessert order.
Beckoning me over to the counter, Stamopoulos points to the meat rotating on spits behind him. “This is gyros”, he announces, as if introducing an old friend.
Chicken breasts, covered in herbs and spices, are layered to form the meat tower. It’s cooked throughout the day. Once it’s ordered, the meat is sliced and served either solo or in a wrap with tomato, onion and tzatziki.
Stamopoulos says he flew in some people from Patras to get the recipe just right. “The guys doing the gyros know exactly how to do it,” he says. “We brought them only for this reason and they’re all made here.”
Behind saloon doors at the back of the restaurant, Zisis Tzoros oversees proceedings in the kitchen.
Dressed all in black, of slight build, Tzoros owns and operates two restaurants in Greece. Half-owner, half-chef, he and Stamopoulos put the menu together.
It involves a lot of prep, says Tzoros, whose own favourite dishes are the gemista and the giouvetsi, a beef-and-kritharaki casserole. Moussaka, he says, takes the longest to prepare.
“It’s a whole process,” says Tzoros. “You have to layer the tray one by one and then make the béchamel. You have to be very prepared.”
I ask if he, like Stamopoulos, is exhausted after their first fortnight open. The pair just laugh.
Tzoros says that working with Irish ingredients has proved somewhat challenging. The meat is decent, he says, but the vegetables aren’t quite the same as back home.
Near the front of the restaurant, on either side, are two panels that explain exactly what gyros and souvlaki – skewered meat or vegetables – are.
“You have to educate people so I’m really happy so far,” says Stamopoulos. “About eighty percent of our customers have been Irish.”
He has one piece of advice: expect decent-sized portions.
Stamopoulos says he had, at first, hoped to open up in the city centre. He’s quietly confident, he says, that there’ll be more than one Eat Greek sometime down the line.