Given last week’s devastating fire at Santorini Greek Kitchen, one of my favorite places to eat in Fountain Square, this might seem like a bad time to review the restaurant. Au contraire, mon frère! This is the perfect time to show my appreciation to the years of fattening food I’ve enjoyed at Santorini and to wish the owners, Jeanette and Taki, a speedy rebuild.
The first time I ever ate at Santorini was in 2001 or 2002, back when the restaurant was still in its “quaint” Shelby Street location. Since that first taste of their delicious gyro, I have found myself compelled to stop in once a month or so, which means that I’ve now sampled most of the menu. But let’s talk about their gyros first, since that is what drew me in 'lo those many years ago. They are – in a word shamelessly stolen from Will Ferrell/James Lipton’s interview of Alec Baldwin/Charles Nelson Riley – scrumtrulescent. The gyro meat (a combination of lamb and beef) is flavorful and never dry and is served atop a golden-brown, warm pita, lightly toasty on the outside, pillowy soft on the inside. They top the gyro with tomato, onions, and a tangy tzaziki sauce. You can get a Greek salad (lettuce, tomato, cucumbers, onions, olives, and feta cheese dressed with oil and vinegar) with it, if you like, but I usually choose the fries. Now, I’m not a French fry guy, in general, so it’s really saying something that I pick the fries over the salad. Santorini’s fries are excellent, crispy and cooked to perfection.
After you’ve eaten the gyro a few times, you’ll probably want to broaden your Greek horizons a bit. As far as I can tell, you can’t go wrong at Santorini. The “half and half,” which consists of half a spanakopita (spinach pie) and half a tiropita (cheese pie) is great because you get to try both of their delicious pies without being totally overwhelmed by the ultra-rich cheese one. The pasticchio is an excellent choice as well, especially if you’re really hungry. It’s basically a Greek-style lasagna made with layers of pasta, seasoned ground beef, tomato sauce, and cheese. If you don’t mind dealing with chicken bones, chicken oregano is awesome, too. Even the spaghetti, which is topped with a red sauce and slices of their gyro meat, is worth a go; I’ve ordered it more than once.
As for appetizers, I will admit that the hummus here is not my favorite in Indy, but their baba ganoush more than makes up for that one deficit. Eggplant dishes can sometimes be, well, snotty, but the baba ganoush here has an excellent texture and is nicely spiced. And, of course, you can’t get away without ordering at least one plate of saganaki, the famous flaming goat cheese. Kids, especially, will love seeing the server light the cheese on fire, sending a fountain of flame toward the ceiling and prompting a hearty “Opa!” from the other diners.
I always like to end my meal at Santorini by sharing a warm plate of galaktabouriko (a desert that consists of sweet custard sandwiched between layers of phyllo dough and dusted with cinnamon) with my friends. Their baklava is tasty, too, of course, but I just can’t get away from the galaktabouriko. It tastes like the Greek version of good ole Hoosier sugar cream pie!
Writing this review has made me very hungry for Santorini’s brand of Greek food. I wish I could go there today for lunch, but, alas, it will be a few months before they’re up and running again. Let’s hope they’ve got the place back in shape before their annual Christmas Eve dinner!
UPDATE: Yay! Santorini Greek Kitchen is up and running again in their original Fountain Square location (rebuilt and refurbished, obviously). I went for dinner on their first week back, and I am happy to report that the reworked space is much brighter and seems more open. The food is as delicious as ever, of course.