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Pano Karatassos swears that the massive meal he’s thrown together on a random Tuesday is simply “homestyle food that you would find at a Greek household.” Perhaps, but Karatassos also happens to be Atlanta restaurant royalty who helms the wildly popular Kyma in Buckhead.
There is dancing and general revelry, but eating is the core activity. The parade of meats roasting over open flames is impressive: a whole lamb on a spit, kondosouvli, lamb chops, and lamb fricassee. Greek dishes like spanakopita and dolmathes, plus an entire room of desserts, round out the feast.
One of the easiest and healthiest fish techniques is cooking en papillote, in which fillets are wrapped in parchment to steam in a hot oven. Stuff the parchment packets with sliced vegetables or rice for a complete meal.
After nearly twenty years dishing out gyros and Greek salads, Nick Poulos no longer looks quite as frisky as his cartoonish portrait painted on the large sign outside his business. His bristly mustache turned gray long ago, and at sixty-nine, he moves a little more slowly. But his carryout restaurant continues to thrive in a dreary area near Daddy D’z BBQ Joynt just west of Oakland Cemetery. In the nineties, Poulos’s brother ran a liquor store a block and a half away from the restaurant—then an empty lot—and suggested the location. The package store is long gone, but neighborhood loyalists have kept Nick’s Food to Go busy for years, largely through word of mouth.
I come from a Buckhead family. My father’s parents live off of West Wesley and my mother’s parents reside near Chastain Park. I grew up in Garden Hills, and my first job was fry guy at Buckhead Diner; I made those blue cheese potato chips and Kevin Rathbun was in the kitchen.
The first time Andrea Koulouris invited me to join her family’s Greek Orthodox Easter celebration, she opened the door at 11:30 a.m. with a glass of white wine in her hand. “Kalo Pascha!” she said. “Happy Easter!” She led me to the backyard. Her husband, Pano, was manning a large spit, seasoning a lamb with olive oil, lemon juice, and oregano as it slowly spun over ashy coals. Men in T-shirts and shorts stood in circles, drinking beer and laughing as they told stories. Pano’s father, Nick Koulouris, who started the local Grecian Gyro chain in 1982, asked me what I’d like to drink and motioned for me to dig into a platter of pita, hummus, and tzatziki, the garlicky yogurt sauce.