Tucson's Greek community is thriving despite the down economy. There have been several recent additions to the Greek-restaurant scene, including a newer chain restaurant with a couple of locations. Having Cypriot in-laws, I get exposed to a lot of delicious homemade Greek food, so I am a tough critic.
One of the most recent additions to Tucson's Greek restaurant scene, The Fat Greek 2 at Camp Lowell and Swan roads, aims to please—and hits the mark.
The original, locally owned Fat Greek restaurant has been a University Boulevard staple since 2003. I stopped in many times for a hot, savory gyro or dolmathes and pita during my time at the University of Arizona, and I was never disappointed in their quick, friendly service and tasty food. They expanded their operations to the Bashas' plaza in June of this year.
The Fat Greek 2 lives up to, and even exceeds, the reputation that the original location has built. My first visit, for a Sunday afternoon lunch, yielded huge portions and quick service with a smile. Before 5 p.m., the restaurant has only counter service, so we ordered our meals, grabbed our drinks ($4.25 each for Keo beers) and took a seat at one of the cushy (if a little worn) booths.
The appetizer sampler ($8.99, enough to serve four) came out just minutes after we sat down, and was loaded with four delicious dips, four dolmathes and a nice portion of kalamata olives. A generous plate of warm pita bread accompanied the platter. The hummus was rich with olive-oil flavor, while the fava dip was mild and subtle, with a beautiful texture and a fresh green color. The tzatziki was cool and creamy, with generous chunks of cucumber. My favorite dip was the potato and garlic puree, scorthalia, which was laden with garlic but was not overwhelming.
My pork souvlaki pita combo with fries ($8.75) and Ted's traditional gyro combo with Greek salad ($8.75) were brought out as we were finishing our appetizer. The pork souvlaki was tender and lemony in the pita, blending with the onions, grilled peppers, romaine lettuce, tomatoes and tzatziki. It was the closest I've had to the homemade stuff, or to the meals I had in Cyprus. Ted's gyro was moist, savory and well-seasoned, without any one ingredient overwhelming the others. My fries were crisp, hot and seasoned with salt, pepper and oregano, which was a fun and interesting addition. Ted's Greek salad was enormous, and the lettuce, tomatoes and onions were all fresh and crisp. There was a good amount of feta cheese and quite a few olives, which is often my complaint with Greek salads: There's sometimes too much lettuce, and not enough of the good stuff!
We sat and chatted for a while after our meal, and it never felt like the servers were pushing us to leave. The soft Greek music in the background didn't compete with our conversation, and neither did the TV near the bar-like seating area.
I looked forward to our second visit, since the menu is more extensive after 5 p.m. and offers some goodies from the sea. The Fat Greek 2 also turns into a full-service restaurant after 5 p.m. (though take-out is still available). We sat ourselves in the far corner of the dining room, though we had our pick of seats; there was only a smattering of other customers. A friendly server quickly came over to take our drink order and drop off menus. She returned promptly with two Alfa beers ($4.25 each) and water.
After placing our order, we were surprised when the kitchen sent out a complimentary plate of warmed pita bread and fava dip, which was a lovely way to start the meal. Our calamari saganaki appetizer ($7.99) appeared just a few minutes later. Three large calamari tubes were lightly breaded and pan-fried to perfection, then topped with breaded, fried tentacles and arranged with warm pita slices and lemon wedges. The calamari didn't even need the lemon; it was fresh and not fishy-tasting.
We also ordered spanakopita ($5.99), which came out crispy and hot; of course, it was served with the ubiquitous pita. It was rich and full of spinach, without being too eggy. I thought it could have used a touch more salt, but that's a matter of personal taste. Ted's Athenian chicken entrée ($9.99) was a nice-sized portion of moist, lemony chicken with a hint of garlic. The baked potato wedges were crisp-skinned, and the Athenian green beans were tasty, if just a touch overcooked.
My yemista ($9.99), peppers and tomatoes stuffed with a veggie-rice mix, was delicious and flavorful. The dish was light but satisfying, and the stuffing in the vegetables was seasoned perfectly. My Athenian green beans were also a touch overcooked, but still yummy. There was so much food that my Greek salad went untouched (except for the olives). We were too full to eat dessert right then, but got a piece of baklava to go ($3.50) for breakfast in the morning. It was fabulous and light, without being too sweet.
The Fat Greek 2 showcases how delicious and diverse Greek food can be, offering both the expected entrées and lesser-seen dishes. Their food is expertly prepared with homemade touches, and the service is quick and friendly. I just hope to see more customers the next time I stop in.