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The Phantom Diner Reviews Hellenic Kouzina: A very comfortable place to eat

  • By The Phantom Diner

If you happen to know what Oxi Day is there’s a pretty good chance you’ve eaten at Hellenic Kouzina (Greek Kitchen) in Mechanicsburg.

Even if you don’t know what Oxi Day is, but you like Greek food, October is an especially good time to go there.

That’s because Oxi Day, a national holiday in Greece, celebrated in Greek communities throughout the world, falls on October 28.

It commemorates the day in 1940, during World War II, when Benito Mussolini’s troops demanded to pass through Greece under threat of war, and Greece said Oxi (no).

Not to make this a history lesson, but war came and Greece fought, and Winston Churchill said, “Hence we will not say that Greeks fight like heroes, but that heroes fight like Greeks.”

But to the restaurant. It’s a big takeout place, but you also can dine in. There are lines near the entry for either. And, if dining in, you need to do a little work.

On the way in, there are menus available and blackboards of specials. You order at a cash register and pay before being seated. You get a pager-like gadget to put on your table so servers can find you. And you get filled ice-water glasses, and wine glasses, if needed (it’s BYOB). So, try not to come in carrying too much.

The atmosphere is casual, think very upscale diner, with wooden tables and booths. The flooring is blue tile. There are blue suspended lights. In fact, there is lots of blue and white, no doubt in honor of the Greek flag.

There’s a transparent water wall separating the dining room in two. And outdoor, round gas fire pit tables overlook Main Street.

The menu includes mezethes (appetizers), salads, entrees and sandwiches, mostly gyros. Also, “spreads,” such as Greek yogurt, hummus and a creamy caviar spread.

Appetizers include dolmades (stuffed grape leaves), flash-fried calamari, Athenian sweet potato fries, chargrilled octopus, and an apparent crowd favorite, imported kefalograviera cheese, a popular Greek hard cheese usually made with sheep’s milk and, in this instance, pan fried in olive oil and flambéed with brandy at tableside as staff members call out “OPAH!”

Regular menu entrees run from $16 to $23 (I’m rounding, it’s one of those `and 99-cents’ places) and include baked lamb shank, spanakopita, lamb souvlaki, moussaka and chargrilled souvlaki with pork or chicken.

All entrees come with a fairly large fresh Greek salad with lots of feta cheese, kalamata olives and a choice of vinaigrette or creamy feta dressing.

A dining companion ordered moussaka ($16.99), which for the uninitiated, is eggplant, potatoes and zucchini layered with a meat sauce and baked in a bechamel sauce. It looked perfect and was proclaimed excellent. It was served with one side, in this case, Mediterranean orzo.

I started with the chargrilled octopus ($11.99) served on greens. Two large tentacles, nicely grilled and tasty. Then ordered grilled souvlaki with chicken ($16.99), two large skewers of chicken chunks served on a bed of rice. It’s often tough to grill skewered chicken and not dry it out. But this was moist and flavorful.

Naturally, there are desserts: baklava, baklava ice cream, baklava cheesecake, Greek custard pastry, rice pudding. All are priced under $6.

And there’s lots of coffee. Everything from ellinikos, a strong Greek coffee made from unfiltered ground beans (you’ll find some grounds at the bottom of your cup) to a caramel latte. There’s also hot chocolate, hot tea, American coffee, Greek latte, cappuccino and so on.

Hellenic Kouzina is a very comfortable place to eat. Service is accommodating. The food is good, and the prices are more than reasonable given the quality. And if you want to go but your I-don’t-want-Greek-food friend or significant other doesn’t, there’s a bacon cheeseburger on the menu for him or her, and a side of fries.

So, if you haven’t been, give it a try. October’s a good time to do so. You can help celebrate Oxi Day.

HELLINIC KOUZINA: 500 E. Main St., Mechanicsburg; BYOB; no reservations for parties fewer than eight; parking in rear or on side street; open Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; 717-766-2990; hellenickouzina.com.

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