Long Beach Lunch: George's Greek Cafe
For dinner, George's Greek Café is a treat of date-night proportions. It's almost not worth going after 5 p.m. unless you're going to share a plate of the house specialty lamb chops or go through Friday night Kleftico with a few bottles of Greek wine.
Lunch, however, is a different (though no less delicious) beast at George's. Instead of family style dinners and heaping plates of rice and buttery steamed vegetables, lunch is an appropriate solo adventure where the traditional Greek gyro is king and the lighter chicken plates feel all the more fitting.
It's not uncommon as a local to crave the restaurant's spit-fired white meat chicken and overstuffed beef gyros once in a mid-day while. The problem is, with three family-owned locations all in prime Long Beach-area dining districts--it's hard to decide which George's Greek Café to go to.
My rule for narrowing it down is such: Do I have any mall
shopping to do? If not, then Lakewood is out. Is it the middle of summer or a
weekend afternoon? If so, forget the chaos of Belmont Shore. The location on
Pine Avenue usually ends up as my go-to George's spot, mostly because the
location is bike-and-transit accessible and it's spacious enough to not feel
crowded even when it is (plus, I love
people watching from the garden-ish patio setting).
On a recent trip downtown, I decided to feed my Greek chicken craving with a plate of chicken spanachi, another signature George dish. But first, I got a small Greek salad, unaware that "small" still means "more than one person should probably eat for a starter." It came with bitter green peppers, salty Kalamata olives and big wedges of fresh tomatoes all tossed with some greens in a feta-overloaded vinaigrette.
After devouring all of the salad save a few pieces of crumbly cheese, I dug into my chicken spanachi, a massive boneless chicken breast topped with an improvised pancake of spinach and feta. This is comfort-food proof why Greek meals always make the perfect lunch--even when you order the heavy stuff (in my case, a piece of meat topped with what seemed like a half-pound of grilled, creamy greens) it still only feels like you ate some impeccably spiced clouds.
The spinach-and-feta cake loosely held its shape atop the tender chicken, enveloping it with a soft texture similar to the inside of al dente ravioli. The adjacent pile of rice pilaf had a similarly comforting mouthfeel, but with more butter and lemon flavor. Too full on large portions of protein, vegetables and carbs, I barely had room for a final bite of pita bread dipped in George's house-made tzatziki sauce--a combination of Greek yogurt, garlic, mint and shredded cucumber in a ramekin as big as an espresso cup.
George's Greek Cafe is perfect for anyone disappointed with Daphne's skimpy, vile portions and corporate vibe. Father and son owners George and Demitri Loizides have created a mini-empire in this town based off of authentic eats, tasty meats and a welcoming family atmosphere that makes it an easy choice for lunches and beyond.
George's Greek Cafe, 135 Pine Ave., Long Beach. (562) 437-1184.
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