Nick's Greek Cafe
1600 Snow Creek Drive, Park City ; 435-658-2267
Delicious Greek food, from appetizers and lemon-chicken soup to baklava, as well as Asian touches.
Cuisine: Greek, Cafe
Hours: Open daily, 11 a.m.-9 p.m.
Recommended Dishes: Lemon-chicken soup, tyropita, spanakopita, moussaka, Korean tacos.
August 3, 2005
Greece is the savory word at Nick's Cafe at Kimball Junction
By Nancy Hobbs
PARK CITY -- After several weeks visiting family and friends in his homeland of Crete, Nick Papadakis has returned to his adopted home in Park City, once again consumed by nonstop work and, happily, back to honest-to-god Greek food. That's right. As he told his compatriots across the Atlantic, "If you want real Greek food, come to Park City." More to the point, he told them to visit his year-old Nick's Greek Cafe in the Kimball Junction shopping area, where Sage Grill used to reside.
His place, Papadakis says, is where you can enjoy authentic Greek food that isn't prepared with the shortcuts and inferior ingredients that he found invading the restaurants of Greece on his recent monthlong visit. He uses family recipes handed down through the generations and mastered by him and his American wife, Jennifer, throughout their marriage.
Jennifer, still vacationing in Greece with their children, generally plays a major role at the restaurant, overseeing the dining room during the daily lunch service. Nick is a constant presence. With his loud voice and heavy Greek accent, he gives the restaurant much of its Mediterranean character.
In fact, his accent in large part got him into his work today. Visitors to the couple's Dancing Reindeers gift shop in Park City were constantly asking Nick where to go for Greek food, and in lieu of that, an affordable alternative to the town's swanky and high-priced venues on Main Street.
"We wanted to open one with reasonable prices, and now we get all the locals here," he says.
With a menu that specializes in traditional Greek, but also mixes in chicken, fish, steak and even a reasonable $24 rack of lamb, Nick's has attracted plenty of visitors during the busy ski season. And a half-dozen options on its $7 kids menu, including macaroni and cheese or souvlaki and rice, makes it popular with area families.
All of the food, Papadakis says, is prepared at the restaurant, with the exception of the yogurt-based cucumber sauce that is slathered on gyros and sold as an appetizer dip. Known as tzatziki sauce, Nick orders what he considers the best available from California.
The restaurant's feta cheese is imported from Bulgaria; again, Nick says, the best he has found. It is exceptional: creamy, not too salty, and used in abundance, including a crumbled layer -- no mere sprinkling -- on top of the cafe's delicious salads.
The cheese also is a staple in the tyropita and in the spanakopita, one of the most visually impressive dishes we tried over a couple of visits to Nick's. The savory phyllo dough triangles, filled with spinach, aromatic mint and cheese, are huge and flaky, looking somewhat like a breakfast turnover, but better. With several to an order, there's either plenty to share or enough for a second meal.
The moussaka was a treat as well, with layers of potatoes, eggplant and zucchini, another layer of spiced ground meat, including fragrant cinnamon, and finally a sturdy topping of béchamel sauce.
Most of the entrees are served with a choice of soup or salad, and recommending one over another is difficult. Even the side salad is adorned with kalamatas, onions, cucumbers and the irresistible feta. But the traditional avgolemono soup is as good as it gets, with the tang of lemons in a thickened chicken and rice base.
We chose the dolmades as an appetizer before dinner, and found it plenty to share among our table of three. I found the grape leaves and spiced meat filling to be a perfect starter, but the others were more smitten with the plate's warm, fresh pita wedges and practically wrestled over the last of the tzatziki sauce in which to dip them.
Our waiter suggested the night's special pasta with shrimp, calamari and bay scallops in an Alfredo sauce, and I was fully satisfied with the recommendation. The seafood was tender and fresh, and the sauce was creamy but light, all topped with a generous amount of freshly chopped and fragrant parsley.
The fried shrimp and scallop dish likewise was a hit, though definitely a heavier entree -- and lots of it.
The Papadakises seem to be successful in meeting their goals. The menu offers lots of traditional Greek food, as well as several less traditional options, and the prices are reasonable, starting at about $15 for a full meal (less for a la carte items).
Those elements also help to make Nick's Greek Cafe a popular place for takeout dinners, including large combination platters for a crowd. A takeout order with a choice of three Greek specialties, plus salad and fluffy lemon pilaf or potatoes, serves two or three for $40, according to the menu. (If portions are as generous as the sit-down service, it might even serve more.)
Add a bottle of wine (Greek retsina, perhaps?) and an easy dinner party or picnic is in the bag.