After trying to impress my readers with a few initial posts on fancy restaurants, I believe it’s time for me to get off the culinary high horse and blog about some friendly neighborhood restaurants that are just as worthy of noting.
I cannot take credit for discovering this little diamond in the rough (it’s just a saying. The restaurant is in a good neighborhood). I got indoctrinated into the Laterna “cult” by my colleagues at work. One of the many great things I quickly noticed about working at my company in my first year is that we are a bunch of hard-working, diligent, cohesive, and goal oriented foodies—we take the birthday boys and girls on our team out to lunch every year, rain or shine. Our team takes it very seriously too. We schedule it on our Outlook calendars and make sure everyone RSVPs. If the venue is TBD we will mark it as TBD in the meeting invite but make sure to update along with web links for GoogleMap directions when the restaurant is determined after a democratic vote.
Apparently, our team holds a tradition every year to take our well-respected Greek colleague, Dilbert* (names have been changed) to his favorite Greek joint to celebrate his birthday. Now, he has been with the company for at least 15 or 16 years so you can imagine how much history our team has had with this particular restaurant. Of course the faces accompanying him to his birthday lunch tradition has changed over the years but I’m sure it has remained one of the high notes of his career. I must say the fact that Latena is across the street from a mall that has a kiosk for renewing license plate stickers before they expire on your birthday deadline also makes this restaurant stand out as a good birthday lunch spot.
Before we begin talking about the food at this restaurant, let me give you the benefit of the same rundown of procedures that my colleagues have passed onto me. The lady server at this restaurant is awesome and friendly, but at the same time she exudes an air of aloofness. You know the feeling you get when you come across someone who commands respect due to his/her seasoned experience? You know, the no-muss-no-fuss-I-know-my-sh*t-and-I-own-this kind of presence that some individuals have? Yeah. You get that feeling when she comes take your order. Don’t get me wrong, she is very friendly, but I also don’t want to mess with the lady in the house. :) Rumor has it that amidst all the items available on the menu, the Super Souvlaki is the bomb. I repeat, the SUPER souvlaki is the bomb. However, when you order from this lady, you mustn’t say the word “souvlaki.” You should simply say the main ingredient. So, for example, if you wanted to get a chicken souvlaki, don’t say “chicken souvlaki,” just say “Chicken.” Otherwise, you will be corrected. She will instruct you to just say “chicken.” I guess when you have such an outstanding souvlaki, it’s very redundant and almost a waste of time to say it out loud. Who cares about the homemade lasagna or pizza on the menu or the today’s special chalk board? You are at a Greek restaurant, for God’s sake, order “Chicken”, “Pork”, or “Gyros”! Get on with the program! Again, it’s just “CHICKEN.” Not “chicken souvlaki”, and God forbid, do not mutter the entire phrase, “the chicken super souvlaki.” Just say “Chicken.” As long as we are on the same page, we shall proceed.
I can honestly tell you, I know nothing about the rest of the menu. I have only tried the Gyros and the Pork. Oh, and our constant starter: the Greek salad with iceberg lettuce, chopped celery, tomato, cucumber, onion, and black olives, sprinkled with some feta cheese. The salad is mixed in a very tangy and refreshing salad dressing that one cannot see but can only taste. It is one great salad. We always get two large bowls to share around our table. Frankly, all the other items on the menu are rather elusive to me because I have never seen them materializing before my eyes. Certainly not at our table but also never at other people’s table but maybe I’m just not very observant due to our usually lively conversations. And so are all the cocktails that are featured on what I call the Throw Back Thursday place mat. The restaurant must have printed 5 million copies of these back in the day. They are in front of you, which might suggest that they are available for ordering, but I have honestly never been so turned off from drinking by merely looking at pictures of cocktails, but hey, that might be just me or the fact that I have only gone there for work lunch.
Now, let’s turn our attention to the Pork. I LOVE the Pork. I have tried the Gyros the very first time I was there. It was good but once I tried the Pork, I fell in love and never looked back. My coworkers also love the Chicken and the Lamb. The Pork (or whatever meat you order) comes in a wrap. The homemade pita is fluffy and soft, but has a crisp to it at the same time. Inside the wrap, juicy and tasty pork slices are accompanied by finely chopped tomatoes and onions in a very creamy tzatziki sauce. The best way to eat the wrap is to hold it on one end and keep unwrapping the wrapping paper as you go. The reason why this is significant is because they don’t skim on the tzatziki sauce. It can get fairly messy if you don’t start from the open end or if you cut them in halves leaving one side with a complete open end. Aside from the trickiness of containing the sauce and not letting it run down your hand/wrist, the Pork is the best Greek souvlaki I have had. Even though I love the kind of potatoes that most Greek restaurants tend to serve souvlaki with in a regular souvlaki dinner, I can sacrifice not having that because the Pork is so good at Laterna.
So there you have it. My single item blog for a friendly neighborhood Greek restaurant.
P.S. I have had the pleasure of seeing the server lady’s softer, more sensitive side once. One time, our charming coworker, Clyde*, from another team joined us for lunch. We all felt that somehow Clyde won the usually calm and composed server lady over and got more smiles from her than any of us, combined. I believe she also made sure that we serve Clyde the salad first. When asked for his comment on the seemingly special treatment, Clyde just shrug his shoulder and replied in his self-assured tone, “I’m just likable.” We can all learn from him. To this day I still secretly rehearse “Pork” in my head before I order so as to not mess it up when it gets to my turn to order…lol