Since I moved to Ottawa, I’ve made a hobby out of trying to find culinary equivalents for some of my favourite haunts back home. Now, after nine years, I’ve finally found a Greek restaurant that lives up to my expectations. I was taking a walk down Bank Street a few months back and noticed that a new restaurant, The Greek Souvlaki Shack, had opened up right near the corner of Bank and Cooper. The thing that made me stop dead in my tracks, however, was a single item on the menu…bougatsa! No, it’s not a bastardization of eureka, but it may as well have been in my case.
Bougatsa is a fabulous Greek dessert consisting of flaky phyllo pastry, filled with heavy custard and topped with powdered sugar and cinnamon. This was a special treat my Dad used to take me for on Saturdays down on the Danforth, the Greek neighbourhood in Toronto. I spent a lot of time there as a kid, learning about all the tasty things my Greek heritage had to offer.
I had pretty much given up on tracking down this lovely, little delicacy in Ottawa, but when I found it along with another favourite of mine, Loukoumades (think golden Timbits soaked in honey and sprinkled with cinnamon), I was beyond excited! A quick perusal of the menu posted in the window showed me that all of the usual standbys were available as well, at quite reasonable prices. Needless to say, further inspection was required. My fiancé Chris and I headed over for dinner a few nights later. We were not disappointed!
Teri, the owner and chef, has created a relaxed atmosphere within his cozy establishment. If it’s not too busy, don’t be surprised to see him pop out of the kitchen to check up on how you’re enjoying his fabulous fare. For our first exploratory visit, we ordered spanakopita (Greek spinach pie) and calamari as our starters. The spanakopita was perfectly flaky and the filling was just the right combination of feta and spinach. The flavours were rich but not too salty as some versions of this dish can be. The portion was quite generous, with four decent sized pieces for us to split at $5.25. The calamari was an absolute joy to devour and quite reasonably priced at $7.95. The squid was tender, not rubbery, and the breading was a tantalizing golden colour, lightly encasing each tasty morsel. Served with the house tzatziki and a wedge of lemon, this was definitely not the tough, onion-ring style calamari I’ve experienced at other establishment
For our mains we both ordered the pork pita, and at $4.25 each, they were an absolute steal! The meat was seasoned just right, allowing us to enjoy the flavour of the pork without having our taste buds overwhelmed with oregano. The pita was soft, the veggies fresh and the tzatziki tart and creamy. We ordered a side of potatoes to split for $3.25 which were roasted to perfection and generously drizzled with olive oil and herbs. It was a very satisfying main course that had us surreptitiously trying to find a bit more room around our waistbands by the end of it.
Despite being ridiculously full at this point, we decided to go for dessert anyway. Ahh bougatsa, how I missed thee! The two of us wasted no time indulging in the warm, custardy goodness. With four pieces per order at $5.25, we were filled to the brim by the time we finally pushed back our chairs. Overall, our meal was wonderfully executed, reasonably priced at just over $30 before tax and tip, and served in a spotless, friendly atmosphere. We’ve been back many, many times since then to enjoy other delicacies on the menu. For a refreshing summer option, check out their Greek salads!
The Greek Souvlaki Shack is a relatively new establishment that opened in December of 2010, but this little restaurant has certainly made an impression. I have yet to visit when the tables haven’t been bustling with activity and happy diners, and they’ve recently applied for a liquor license which is sure to boost numbers even more. Located at 258 Bank Street, you can get there easily by bus and there’s enough street parking available should you need it. With the Ottawa Greekfest set to start this week, a visit to The Greek Souvlaki Shack is the perfect opportunity to familiarize your taste buds with some of the scrumptious offerings you can hope to encounter. Opa!