Acropolis OPA started its life as one of Buffalo’s Greek family restaurants before second-generation owner Paul Tsouflidis decided to shake it up. The building is scarcely recognizable from the street compared to a decade ago. The second floor went from an apartment to dining space, then, for a time, a DJ-powered dance floor. The first floor is more of a sports bar now, open to the street in good weather through sliding doors.
The menu has gone through its own evolution, as Tsouflidis emphasized healthy eating goals in line with his other restaurant, Newbury Salads. The restaurant's name has changed, too, adding OPA. It's a Greek expression of gusto or joie de vivre, uttered when dancing or brandishing the essential flaming fried cheese appetizer called saganaki.
As I left after a recent dinner, a guest used it to sum up a meal that was too often bland: "That needed more OPA."
The Acropolis modernization of the all-day Greek family restaurant menu has certainly expanded its customers' horizons. Avocado toast (mashed avocado, roasted red pepper, goat cheese, poached egg on BreadHive multigrain toast, $11) leads off the brunch menu.
It still includes the classic souvlaki breakfast, in chicken, beef or gyro ($12), and upgraded favorites like the Canadian bacon eggs Benedict ($12).
I would have liked to try breakfast, but the Tuesday morning I stopped by it was closed, with no note on the door.
On another day, our group was offered the choice between the television-lined downstairs space and the quiet second floor, so we climbed the stairs for dinner. Our server handed around menus and said she would return for drink orders.
That took a while, and when I peeked down the stairs to explore, I saw that she was also dealing with delivery people showing up to hoist takeout orders. This set the tone of an evening where we missed seeing more of her personable but overworked self.
Fresh and different choices we tried included Buffalo falafel ($8.50), served with blue cheese dressing, celery and carrots. The ground chickpea fritters took quite well to a bath in Frank's hot sauce. It softened their crunch slightly, but the tradeoff of livening up the often staid bean patties was worth it.
There was also a spicy quinoa salad ($11), patterned after the popular Newbury Salads offering. It was billed as spicy quinoa with avocado, cucumber, cilantro, carrots and tomatoes, topped with spicy tofu.
Unlike the versions I've had at Newbury's EXPO location, it was grievously underseasoned, with both tofu and quinoa turning up bland as milk. The ramekin of jalapeno lime cilantro dressing helped, but couldn't stretch far enough to compensate.
Calamari ($11) could have used a few more minutes in the fryer to tan its pale crust, but heaped with fresh grape tomatoes, pickled pepper rings and feta cheese, it was a tasty starter. Octopus ($12) was chewy, and I gave up fighting the tentacles.
A mezze appetizer plate ($17) included seven assorted olives, roasted red peppers, quinoa tabouli, three grape leaves stuffed with lemony rice, four feta cubes, hummus, tzatziki and spicy feta dip, whose punchy flavor made it my favorite thing on the platter. The tzatziki was a glossy lite version, all but garlic-free, that would have gotten me heckled mercilessly if I had brought it to a party at my Macedonian in-laws' house.
More enjoyable were the tender, crusty flattened meatballs called keftedes ($8). Laced with mint and splayed out in tomato sauce, they come three to an order, and I wished for more. Saganaki ($11), fried cheese flamed for presentation, its fire put out with a spritz of fresh lemon, was scooped onto pita points and devoured in a trice.
Meat on the lamb shank ($20) clung tenaciously to the bone, and could have used some salt and pepper, though the carrots and celery from the braising pan helped. The house-cut fries alongside it were excellent. Pastitsio ($19) is a baked pasta with ground beef topped with béchamel. Ours seemed like a minimalist version, lacking robust spicing and more of a velvety custardy covering.
Blackened snapper ($19) in a citrus beurre blanc was an entrée highlight, the well-seasoned spice-dusted fillet seared and lightened up with its tangy sauce. It hit a savory but not-too-heavy note that I wish I saw more of at the modern Acropolis.
The chicken souvlaki dinner ($18, lead photo) also was a resounding success, a completely expected and completely satisfying platter of crusty, moist chicken tenders over rice with Greek salad and faintly lemony potatoes.
Desserts included a straightforward, raisin-free rice pudding and bougatsa, an eggy custard-in-phyllo treat. Our server said they were gratis because of delays we experienced. After I signed the credit slip, and waited for 10 minutes, I found her downstairs handling to-go traffic and handed it over.
An understaffed night can happen, so it might be an aberration, but on this night we felt underserved. If Acropolis can bring back more robust flavors and expand into lighter, healthier offerings, I'll be the first to say: OPA!
Acropolis OPA – 6 plates (out of 10)
Where: 703 Elmwood Ave. (886-2977)
Hours: 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday, Tuesday; 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. Wednesday through Friday; 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday.
Prices: Breakfast, $6-$13; starters, $7.50-$17; and entrees, $15-$20.
Wheelchair access: yes
Gluten free: salads, many choices.