I do love going to the latest, and hopefully greatest, new restaurants in Los Angeles, but there's also some classic spots that I still need to visit. It’s just so hard to get to the older spots when the sparkly new, buzzy locale is shining its pretty, fresh, small plates in front of you. Alas, in the name of research, I set out to finally tackle the 67-year institution that is Papa Christo’s.
When you think Greek food in Los Angeles, Papa Christo’s is at the top of the list. Started as a market on the corner on Pico Boulevard and Normandie Avenue in 1948, Sam Chrys set out to import Greek food and wine for Angelenos to enjoy at reasonable prices. 20 years later, Sam’s son Chrys bought the business and eventually opened the restaurant in the early 90’s. The store still stands today, next to the restaurant and a separate takeout counter.
On Thursday nights Papa Cristo's has a "Big Fat Greek Family-Style Dinner." For just $24 plus tax and tip, you get to enjoy a traditional Greek family meal. There's also live music and normally belly dancing, but sadly, it was canceled the night I was there.
My worries at eating at a dated restaurant faded as soon as I walked into the dining room and was greeted by a very affable Greek host with wine bottle in one hand, out stretched glass for me in the other. That’s a personal touch I could get used to when entering a restaurant. New hot spots look and learn. I immediately knew that this wasn’t going to be a stuffy sit and serve meal.
Greek wine sampling and epic stories flowed as my party gathered and everyone easily fell into the Greek family fold. I felt like I was at a big picnic or dinner party. We shared our table with another nice couple as our host worked the room to get everyone involved and mingling.
Plastic plates were already on the table when we arrived, filled with a mix of Greek olives, dolmades, feta, tzatziki and pita bread. Food rolls throughout the well-paced night starting with Loukaniko, a smoky, grilled Greek sausage, followed by a super sized Greek salad and a traditional spanakopita, complete with flaky crust and warm spinach interior. With plastic tablecloths, this is a place to come with people young and old where you can spill without fretting about leaving a mark.
Live music played, the Greek artwork on the wall was discussed, and plates continued to be stacked, even though we were full after the starters. We kept eating because I felt like our hosts made all this food just for us, so we couldn’t offend. There was tender, well-spiced marinated New Zealand lamb, lemon-oregano chicken skewers (a must for tzatziki dipping) and sides of roasted potatoes and string beans in tomato sauce. There hardly seemed room for bread, but they make their own so how could we refuse?
While large plates of half eaten food filled the table, the flaky baklava dessert arrived alongside strong Greek coffee filled with just a hint of sugar, but no cream or milk. We were happy, full and even allowed to pack our leftovers.
In yet another really nice personal touch, Papa Christo himself stepped out of the kitchen to greet us. I asked if he ever tires of making this same meal and he says "no, this is how we eat!" I have to say, it's a fun way to eat, and it's also nice to see that Papa Christo's is still family-run with Papa himself in the kitchen. It's good to see some restaurants are staying true to who they are and creating a relaxed, but fun atmosphere. I look forward to Papa Christo's being around for many more decades.
2771 W Pico Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA
Thanks to Epicurious for sponsoring this post. As always, all opinions are solely my own.
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