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|Out to Lunch
by Brian J. Lowney
My good friend Oswaldo called the other day to let me know that he’d just returned from his latest trip abroad. "Hey," he shouted as I picked up the phone. "I’m back from visiting my sister in Guadalajara. It’s been two whole weeks since we’ve had lunch together. Did you miss me?"
Quite frankly, I had. Oswaldo is a great guy, full of fun and very adventurous. More important, he loves to try new things, and never says "no" to any of my dining suggestions. The only things he will not eat are frogs’ legs. (He claims to still have vivid nightmares about high school biology class.) "Why don’t we check out the Columbus Day Festival on Federal Hill and see if there’s anything to eat that we haven’t tried?" he suggested. "I’m in a Mediterranean mood."
Sadly, my friend and I were disappointed with the few culinary offerings that this year’s festival offered. "I am so tired of sausage and peppers or meatball grinders," Oswaldo lamented. "If we aren’t going to do Italian, why don’t we visit a Greek restaurant," he said, while offering a brief lesson in Southern European geography. "The only problem is that I don’t know of any."
"Don’t worry my friend," I replied. "Let’s go to Andreas on Thayer Street. It’s an East Side institution, the food is always good and the service is friendly and efficient. When you eat at Andreas, it’s like being welcomed into a Greek home."
Shortly after we were seated, Oswaldo’s expressive brown eyes began to widen as he glanced at the colorful photographs that adorned the wall where we were seated, and eyed the numerous Greek artifacts that are on display at this popular restaurant. He even gently tapped his fingers on the marble-like table, trying very hard to catch the beat of the lively ethnic music that filled the dining room. "I have a feeling that this is going to be a great lunch," he proclaimed. I just nodded, knowing what to expect after having enjoyed many excellent dinners at this cozy dining spot many times in the past.
After perusing Andreas extensive menu, I chose the beef souvlaki ($8.50), a Greek sandwich consisting of pieces of grilled tenderloin and sautéed mushrooms, dressed with a delicious yogurt-cucumber sauce, and wrapped in grilled pita bread.
My sandwich was absolutely delicious: First, Andreas serves the best pita bread that I have never tasted, filled with a rich, rustic flavor that is simply delightful. My beef was cooked as ordered – medium well – and was nicely accented by a handful of sautéed mushrooms and the tangy yogurt based dressing, mildly seasoned and brimming with finely diced fresh-from-the-vine chopped cucumbers.
Oswaldo chose the lamb soulvaki (also $8.50), which was much like my sandwich only this time, it was made with pieces of tender marinated lamb and onions and peppers. "This lamb is so fresh-tasting," Oswaldo announced. "It reminds me of the meat my grandmother used to serve at Easter dinner. It’s no wonder why the Greeks are known for their lamb dishes. This sandwich is such a wonderful treat."
Both of our specialties were served with a choice of rice or a Greek salad. We chose the latter and were pleased with our selection. Our salads consisted of a generous serving of fresh garden greens, a thick cucumber slice, a tomato wedge, red onions and some Greek olives, all nicely dressed with a piquant house dressing and sprinkled with tangy Feta cheese.
"I’m having dessert," my happy friend declared, as he took a sip of this third cup of coffee ($1.50 for a bottomless cup). "I bet that the baklava ($4.95) is heavenly." While I was indeed quite full, I did manage to beg for a forkful of my friend’s dessert. Buttery layers of phyllo dough, drenched with sweet honey and sprinkled with cinnamon, nutmeg and chopped walnuts, created a dessert that my dining companion termed "food for the Gods."
In addition to several Greek specialties, such as lamb, beef and swordfish kabobs, moussaka, and lemon-oregano lamb chops, Andreas also serves several designer burgers, soups, salads, vegetarian pleasures, a gyro plate and several Greek sandwiches. There is a full bar, as well as an extensive list of ethnic appetizers and side dishes, including Greek fries ($3.75), topped with feta and Kassert cheeses and seasoned with oregano.
Andreas is located at 268 Thayer Street in Providence. For more information call 331-7879. Al fresco dining is available when weather permits.
Brian Lowney is a journalist for the Providence Visitor and for the New Bedford Standard Times. He enjoys the wonderful Rhode Island restaurant scene and writing about the cornucopia of outstanding dining and retail food establishments we have been blessed with throughout the region