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Taverna Cretekou, In Old Town Since 1973


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Other than the fact that it was established in the 70s, I haven't read anything about Taverna Cretekou in Old Town on the boards. I'm sure many of us have been here before, but in the name of all that is gastronomic and remind-ful and thorough, a new thread.

I visited on Friday after work with my aunt and uncle. We didn't have a destination in mind other than, "Hey, remember Old Town?" This is a lovely place and we were treated very warmly by both of our servers and a nice hostess whom we later found out was Denise, wife of owner Christos Papaloizou. None of us were very well-versed in the cuisine, and our server and Denise both helped with recommendations.

(The Web site really jogged my memory of everything and is kind of fun in and of itself--www.tavernacretekou.com.)

We started with an appetizer for two that was more than enough for three. The highlights were Taramosalata--red caviar mousse with olive oil and lemon, Dolmadakia--grape leaves filled with rice, scallions, and dill marinated in olive oil, and Tzatziki--homemade yogurt, cucumber, and garlic. Lowlights were a rather bland eggplant mousse and the Spanakotiropita, which is the one dish I'd had elsewhere before, spinach and feta in filo, which was rather limp and flavorless. We didn't mind the less successful dishes, because the ones that worked REALLY worked, and that caviar mousse especially was memorable, very light and fresh.

My aunt was happy with her rockfish special, and even happier that they asked her ahead of time if she wanted the head on (she didn't) and if she wanted them to take the large center bone out for her (she did). It was very well and subtley seasoned. My uncle had the veal special, which had a very sweet tomato-based sauce.

I ordered Exohikon off the regular menu, lamb baked with cheese, artichoke, peas, carrots, onions and pine nuts in filo. Sooo good. Perfect for winter. The filo was very flaky and held up nicely throughout the meal, not turning to mush as the Spanakotiropita did. The lamb was really tender and flavorful.

We wrapped up with ouzo-enhanced coffee, which again was perfect for the cold. When I come back I will definitely explore the wine list, which had a lot of house and Greek selections.

Overall, it just seems like a really warm, family-owned place where people can have a good, relaxed time. Live music on Thursdays, according to the Web site, and that must be fun. Sometimes it's just nice to go somewhere laid-back and not in the mix of all the "foodie" talk and just have some DINNER, you know? :lol:

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Yesterday was so gorgeous, it was like an apology from Mother Nature, saying "I'm sorry I've been such a bitch lately".

In all these years living near and loving Old Town, I've never eaten at Taverna Cretekou and last night we just couldn't pass up eating al fresco and Taverna Cretekou was just acalling us to dine in the courtyard out back.

The space is beautiful with flowers and fans gently spinning over a roofed "deck" which runs along the perimeter. In the middle, you can dine under the stars. The food, while not stellar, was enjoyable-especially the mezedes. Manitaria Psyloriti- broiled mushrooms stuffed with spinach, feta and herbs was delicious when hit with a squeeze of lemon. Tiropita-manouri, feta and kefalograviera cheeses wrapped in puff pastry and filo was both creamy and slightly tart. I would definitely start another meal with this one.

I chose a chicken "special" which was pounded chicken breast in a non-descript brown sauce with veggies and potatoes. It is a ubiquitous dish in Philly's Italian mom and pop places, so I wasn't getting what was especially Greek about it.

Mr. MV's selection was very good, however. Exohikon was lamb, cheese, carrots, peas, artichokes and pine nuts wrapped in filo. It was like a Greek pot pie and frankly, I was a bit jealous!

The service was very friendly, with the husband and wife team seating patrons, reciting the nightly specials, and in general, taking care of everyone. I like their hands on approach.

The price is right, the atmosphere is beautiful and the food will definitely bring me back.

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It wasn't my choice, but my dinner companions chose Taverna Cretekou for dinner tonight. Walking past Eammon's, I had a revelation that Greek food is the Irish food of the Mediterranean. It is way too heavy, not overly flavorful, and you walk out of the place with your stomach feeling like you just ate at a food eating contest, but somehow looking for more satisfaction.

Taverna Cretekou re-confirmed that impression tonight. The appetizer special of hommos was like the chunky peanut butter version of the smoother Middle Eastern hommos. Surprisingly it was not served with bread, so we asked for some of the sliced bread that typically lands on the table at the beginning of the meal. We also had the calamari starter, and it was nothing special. Typically, lots of calories and not much satisfaction.

One companion had the lamb shank special in a lemon-garlic sauce. My one bite was interesting and good, not great. The other two of us had the Taverna Cretekou Special, a sampling plate of four or so tastes from the menu. The Pastitsio was a comforting version of Greek Mac-n-Cheese, but nothing really stood out.

We also had the red wine 'special' which tasted like 1960s-era upstate New York wine mixed with cough syrup.

The outdoor garden was a perfect setting for a wonderful evening, weather-wise, but if I had different companions tonight, I would have eaten at any of a few dozen places in Old Town that actually feed you well and provide a measure of satisfaction to boot.

Now I need some Pepcid....

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