This year, for the first time in four years, I will not be returning to Greece. Instead, I went to Nick’s Place Express. Kenmore is certainly no substitute for the azure waters of Nafplio or the winding, mysterious streets of Athens. But the dishes Nick Ananiadis presents on his plates? Pretty darn close.
The cozy storefront is set back from the road and is blink-and-you’ll-miss-it small. It features only a handful of seats and counter stools, with the flat top in full display. Those who have visited Nick’s Place on Amherst Street will recognize much of the menu, including homemade bread, Nick’s Omelette with hot dogs and Texas sauce ($8), and the almighty skillet breakfast ($9, half-portion for $7). That said, the Express differentiates itself in a number of ways.
First, check the specials before you order. On the week we visited, crab cakes with a sriracha tartar sauce and cider vinegar slaw, chicken and waffles Benedict, as well as apple cinnamon walnut french toast all graced the menu. The kitchen also promises to make entrees vegetarian or vegan upon request, for those with special dietary needs.
Where the chef really struts his stuff on the Greek side. Ananiadis makes his own gyro meat, available in a souvlaki, gyro, wrap or Mama’s Omelette ($8). The chef slow roasts Greek spice-marinated pork, then fries it on the grill for extra crispiness.
He can prepare gyros both the traditional Greek way – with ketchup and mustard, feta cheese, onions, tomatoes and tzatziki topped with fries, or on a bed of lettuce with tomato, feta, onions and tzatziki ($10).
That meat really differentiates Nick’s from the wealth of other Greek diners in town. One of our party said it “tasted like real meat,” with crispy edges, slight spice and a meaty chew that can’t be imitated.
Nick’s spanakopita ($9) also features fresh phyllo dough, which gives the classic spinach pie a shattering crunch to offset creamy spinach and feta. Some spanakopita tastes like uncooked dough with a little salt, but Ananiadis’ marries slightly sour spinach, creamy feta and crunchy phyllo for a satisfying pie.
In Greece, I love spanakopita for breakfast, on the go, or as a between-meals snack, but adding a side of Greek salad to Nick’s version made it a filling lunch option.
Now, about that Greek salad. while a salad of that name does exist on the menu ($6 for a large), I recommend spending the extra buck for the Greek Village Salad or Hortiatiki. This blend of cucumbers, tomatoes, green peppers, olives, onions and pepperoncini, topped with crumbled feta and olive oil, presents a more authentic taste of the homeland than the lettuce-heavy salad we’re used to here.
While I missed the block feta they use in the Old Country, Nick’s uses a healthy pile of cheese to augment the crisp, fresh veggies as well as pit-in Kalamata olives. For those, there’s really no substitution.
Try the specials menu for a taste of something different at Nick’s Place Express. If, however, you crave authenticity, these three can’t be beat.
Nick’s Place Express
2466 Elmwood Ave., Kenmore (877-0088)
Hours: 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday.
Price range: soups, salads and sandwiches, $4-$10; breakfast $5-$9
Parking: Street and lot
Gluten-free options: Most items can be made gluten-free.