A World of Choice
Third and final installment in a series on the Red Deer Downtown business Association’s Time for Lunch campaign.
I am on the last mile for my culinary tour through downtown Red Deer. This week, I was treated to some Authentic Greek fare, some traditional Chinese dim sum, and then a walk through International coffee house that offers a taste of food from different regions of the world and finally walk through Grandma’s kitchen at Café Millennium.
It’s not totally all Greek to me when it comes to the Greek restaurant, Saro’s, located at 4910 52 street. It’s all about family, tradition and authentic home cooked Greek goodness. This has been “my family restaurant” since the day it opened in February, 1979.
Then the restaurant was run by Anastasia and Sarantos Giannioudis and their two kids Genie and John. Whether it was because Genie and I were the only two ethnic kids in the school or because we both were being raised by tradition and customs that our parents firmly wanted to continue, we had an instant connection.
Instead of playing outside and skipping rope, we would spend a lot of time in Saro’s kitchen. As the industrial size mixer made pizza dough, we would flip through teen magazines or discuss the most recent episode of “Joanie Loves Chachi.”
As Genie hand shaped the pizza crust we studied for exams, gossiped about popular kids in school and talked about the latest fashion.
Mamma Giannioudis was also a permanent fixture in the kitchen as she simmered spicy tomato sauce on the stove, skewered souvlaki or baked pizza, and would listen patiently over our idle girly chit chat.
Those moments were calm and tranquil and probably where the “calm before the storm” phrase originated from because suddenly the atmosphere would totally change when Papa Giannioudis entered the kitchen.
When he came, rapid Greek was spoken with vigorous hand gestures and everyone’s voices went up a couple of decibels.
Though it seemed likea heated argument was beginning to brew I soon learned that it was simply the Greek way. Papa Giannioudis would always come at least 3-4 times into the kitchen to ensure that his high standards were followed by the family.
Saro’s is now taken over by Sarantos and Anastasia’s son, John so that they both can retire. But old habits are hard to break; so both have limited their visits to the restaurant only to a couple times a day! Secretly, I think Saro’s is their third child and they will both continue to watch its growth.
Some of Saro’s specialty Greek items include Domathes, stuffed grape leaves with rice, Arni kleftiko, roasted lamb that is ultimate in tenderness, Keftedes, meatballs served with tzatzke sauce and moussaka, a traditional Greek dish of egg plant, zucchini and potatoes and seasoned ground beef.
For the time for Lunch Campaign Saro’s is serving Chicken Souvalaki with Greek Salad for $9.95 , Garithe with rice and vegetables and garden salad for $9.25, Spanakopita with Greek Salad for $9.25 and BBQ Ribs with Baked Potato or Rice served with salad $9.75.
Ross Street Café
Opening their doors in May, Ross Street café soon to be changed to Wai’s Restaurant is the new kid on the block. Located on 4916 Ross Street, this place turned out to be something entirely different from my expectation. Instead of coffee, this restaurant is featuring Dim sum.
Dim sum refers to a style of Chinese food prepared as small bite-sized or individual portions of food traditionally served in small steamer baskets or on small plates. Over 40 different types of Dim Sum are available here.
Varieties ranged from steamed shrimp, pork dumplings to bit more traditional steamed chicken feet, deep fried squid legs and beef tripe.
To appeal to the western palate, they also have a large and varied menu with North American style Chinese food. While I enjoyed some dim sum off the menu, I watched the rest of the patrons. Most enjoying the food were Chinese, a sure indication that the menu does feature authentic food. Not serving the dim sum in traditional way with the carts was an advantage to the customers because every dish coming out of the kitchen was hot with a puff of steam floating above the dish.
For the Lunch Time Campaign Wai’s will be featuring Steamed BBQ Pork Bun for $2.75, Steamed Shrimp Dumplings for $3.25 and Ginger Fried Beef for $10.50 and mixed vegetables with prawns for $11.50.
Quenched International Coffee House
Located on 5005 Gaetz Avenue, this was an interesting discovery. It is a cozy coffee shop with living room-like seating, and an intimate corner for two or just casual lunch at the cafeteria-type table. Like many coffee house they serve varieties of macchiato, espressos, lattes, smoothies, frappes, and iced coffee that would be great for morning starts or an afternoon wake-ups.
To accompany the beverages they serve homemade goodies that included double fudge brownies, Oreo cookies, cinnamon buns, loafs and cakes.
I was confused about the International part in the name. There was giant elephant mural on one wall while some African art work on another. Besides the artwork, there was no sign of “Internationalism.”
Then I grabbed the daily specials calendar and there it was! Quenched offers a variety of international lunch fare throughout the month, except on Sunday when they are closed.
Depending on the day, you can have pineapple jicama salad, Italian wedding soup, Borscht, Chicken chipotle rice, Jamaican red bean soup, or Iraqi red lentil soup.
The day that I visited the coffee house it was Moroccan stew day. It was a thick stew with medley of all good things — ginger, cinnamon, paprika, chick peas butternut squash, and Spanish olives and sweetened with raisins and apricots. Totally Yum!
A large bowl of soup and cold or hot sandwich are all under $9.
Café Millennium, located on the first floor of the Millennium Building at 4909 49 Street, is the next best thing to Grandma’s kitchen. As you enter, there are so many mouth-watering smells wafting in the air that it is like taking a walk down memory lane into Grandma’s kitchen and remembering all those wonderful comfort foods from your youth.
Bread, cookies, squares, pies, muffins are all baked in the shop.
If that is not enough, there is a roast beef cooking slowly in their in house rotisserie for lunch that has customers drooling before they even enter.
Their glazed pumpkin cookie and their chicken pot pie would definitely have granny’s stamp of approval.
What is unique to this coffee house is that they will pack your lunch to go so you can eat while enjoying the flowers at City Hall Park, people watch at the Ross street patio or window shop through the downtown streets.
Their Time for Lunch features include small soup and sandwich for $7.50, latte special with cookie for $5, Coffee and muffin for $3and their bag lunch special which includes sandwich cookie or fruit, juice and chips for $8.50
Madhu Badoni is a Red Deer-based freelance food writer. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Watch for Madhu’s Masala-Mix blog on www.reddeeradvocate.com