By Frank Sabatini Jr.
Tucked into a confluence of strip plazas along east Friars Road is the kind of Greek kitchen we don’t see too much of anymore.
Troy’s Greek Restaurant is something of a temple to the days when finding a bowl of lemon-y avgolemono soup and other Hellenic fare was a lot easier than it is today. Much like Chinese restaurants have begun verging on extinction, these American-style chomps into Greece have also become far and few between over the past 20 years.
The family-owned establishment sprung into Grantville in 1985. We’re told its owners are now retired and have pretty much delegated the operation to managers.
Last time I visited was in 2009. Nothing has changed except the prices, which are naturally a couple notches higher.
The blue-and-white color scheme still pervades throughout the expansive dining room. So do picturesque murals, plaster-cast corbels, and sturdy rattan chairs. Tables remain dressed in white linens, and carpeting joyfully absorbs the din when it’s busy.
The cuisine is unadventurous by today’s standards, but it’s well-constructed and comforting, especially when basking in the brief, fiery glow of saganaki.
As a starter, saganaki is a tableside ritual in which Greek kasseri cheese is doused in brandy and set aflame until crispy on the outside and melty on the inside. In praise of the formidable flames, the server shouts “opah!” before extinguishing the fire with fresh lemon juice. Before you know it, you’re swiping warm pita bread through the seared curd. It’s kind of like eating fondue from a cast-iron plate.
Troy’s does a fine job at saganaki, and also shows expertise at grilling up juicy chickens bathed in lemon, oregano and olive oil — the holy trinity in Greek cooking.
On this recent visit, I expected those ingredients would shine from a piling of roasted pork that was tucked into a nice, crusty roll, considering our waiter told us everything on the menu is cooked “Greek-style.” I tasted no herbs or lemon, although the natural, soothing flavor of the pork didn’t disappoint.
My companion reveled in a combo plate abundantly loaded with moist gyros meat. The beef-lamb shavings were complemented by a mildly seasoned chicken skewer, jumbo carrot slices, rice, and pita bread. The “frosting” to these combo meals and other entrees is tzatziki sauce — that celebrated admixture of strained yogurt, cucumber and dill. In a perfect world, Greek restaurants would serve it in bowls rather than in little plastic cups. A single portion runs out quickly, so be sure to ask for extra.
The combo plate was also accompanied by a Greek salad of reasonable size. The sprinkling of feta cheese throughout the medley was much to my liking — creamy on the palate and not terribly salty.
Medium-cut french fries I ordered with my sandwich also deserve a shout out. They were outright addicting with their crispy veneers, which remained intact even after cooling down. And their fluffy interiors were reminiscent of good steak fries. Forget ketchup. Ask for tzatziki instead.
Service is professional. Staffers are clad in white shirts and black slacks. In the case of our waiter, Victor, he readily answered my food questions regarding ingredients, portion sizes, and the Greek wine options, which we passed up on this early-afternoon meal.
He also informed us of the restaurant’s Greek buffet, held from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Sunday for $15. It features about 22 dishes tailored to carnivores and vegetarians alike.
Troy’s Greek Restaurant
10450 Friars Road (Grantville)
Prices: Soups, salads and appetizers, $4.95 to $15.95; entrees and combo plates, $13.95 to $16.95; pastas and seafood, $10.95 to $15.95
— Frank Sabatini Jr. is the author of ‘Secret San Diego’ (ECW Press) and began his local writing career more than two decades ago as a staffer for the former San Diego Tribune. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.