A dear old pal with a background in wine and restaurants and an eye for trends shot me a text the other day that got me thinking.
“There are so many Greek restaurants now,” Jim wrote. “Where did they all come from?” He mused that a story was warranted, and even offered a headline: Greek Revival.
Sign Jim up for a new career as an assignment editor.
Fact is, a slew of Greek eateries have opened in recent months, ranging from fancy-pants, big-bucks spots to drop-in places with fast-casual fare.
The splashiest opening came in December—the reinvention of the old Park & Orchard space at 240 Hackensack Street in East Rutherford as Elia.
With executive chef Jose Luis Falcon in the kitchen, owners Anna Rosati and Annamaria Adinolfi, a mother-daughter team, aim to offer high-style, Greek-focused dishes. There are whole fishes, a raw bar, classics from the motherland and a list of custom cocktails. There’s also an open kitchen, a newly brightened whitewashed space and a push by management to make Elia a regional destination.
Which the original Park & Orchard certainly was. One of the first restaurants in New Jersey to tilt vegetarian, and with a wine list that ranked among the best and most diverse in the Mid-Atlantic, brothers Buddy and Ken Gebhardt orchestrated a nightly dining scene that oozed enthusiasm for healthy eating, and trying wines of a different stripe. The Gebhardts retired and passed the torch to a new team, proprietors Andrew Guarino and David Madison, who hired chef Christopher Albrecht. In spite of Albrecht’s talent and renown, the Park & Orchard re-boot never took off; Albrecht left for the Ryland Inn in Whitehouse Station, and Guarino and Madison subsequently closed the restaurant.
Elia is serving lunch and dinner weekdays and dinner only on weekends. 201-939-9292; elianj.com.
In South Jersey, The Original Greek—dubbed “The OG”—opened earlier this winter at 17 Bethel Road in Somers Point. Owned by veteran restaurateur Nick Ballias, the menu here zeros in on casual classics. Early fans tout the gyros, the fat pita sandwiches, and the lamb-beef blended burger.
The OG is open for lunch and dinner daily. 609-904-5519; heoriginalgreek.com.
Meanwhile, Local Greek, which opened last year at 44 Leigh Street in Princeton, has expanded its days of service to include breakfast and lunch on Mondays. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are offered Tuesday through Sunday, Local Greek has a wide-ranging menu of pastries, both savory and sweet; salads; sandwiches; cooked foods; and a daily menu of special entrees. 609-285-2969; localgreeknj.com.
A year ago, George Georgiades was plotting to bring Eons Greek Food for Life to 501 Route 17 in Paramus. The chef-owner of the late Varka in Ramsey had left New Jersey to open the first Eons in New York City.
So how’s the return to the Garden State going?
Gangbusters. Eons/Paramus is the Chipotle-does-Greek go-to on the shoppers’ paradise byway in Bergen. It’s possible the Wild Shrimp Salad Bowl is fueling more purchases than an ad during the Super Bowl.
Eons is open daily for lunch and dinner. 201-523-9500; eonsgreek.com.
A closing note from pal Jim: “Ate at Lithos in Livingston a couple weeks ago—pretty good.” Lithos is a relative granddaddy in the Greek genre, long located at 405 Eisenhower Parkway. 973-758-1111; lithosgreekrestaurant.com.Click here to leave a comment