I find it comforting that nowadays in Columbus Greek restaurants are about a drachma a dozen.
Oh sure, there's a sameness to them and rarely will you nibble on anything remotely thrilling in them. But with few exceptions, they're fun and unpretentious places that serve crowd-pleasing fare cooked with a good measure of verve.
The main differences are that some just execute the menu better while using fresher ingredients and providing a nicer setting. Add the new Greek Corner on Lane Avenue (the original's on 161) to the top of that "better" list.
Bigger and swankier than you'd think from its strip-mall digs, Greek Corner's still a comfy jeans-and-shorts kind of establishment. That doesn't mean you should take its fine tiled floor, hushed lighting, polished wooden bar, mosaic walls and inevitable Greek island mural for granted. Because plenty of thought and effort have gone into this restaurant, from its pleasant look to its courteous servers to its far-above-average Greek food.
Two excellent - and huge! - combo appetizers I tried would be suited for either a large entree or a quartet of snackers. These were the Greek Corner ($12) and the Spicy Frutti di Mare ($14).
The eponymous combo was a crowded platter with a goodly dollop of excellent tzatziki sauce (garlicky, and made with wonderful, super-thick, tart and creamy yogurt); two large and rockin' spanikopita triangles (buttery, flaky, multi-layered phyllo pastry filled with mildly minty spinach); a wildly generous serving of good gyro meat (crisped up and a perfect partner for the tzatziki); two pleasingly plump, meaty and top-notch dolmathes brightened by a tangy avgolemono sauce; plus olives, toasted pita, cucumbers, pepperoncinis - that kind of stuff.
Equally appealing was the not-fooling-around Spicy Frutti di Mare. Tossed in a wickedly good, dairy-enriched and chunky tomato sauce spiked with chili flakes and oregano were serious scallops, decent shrimp and OK-enough mussels.
Lamb Bream ($16) was probably the best entree I sampled here. It combined deeply satisfying roasty lamb slices with long-cooked, rustically hacked ratatouille-like vegetables (zucchini, eggplant, onions and mushrooms) in a rich tomato sauce. Highly recommended.
Milder than most other restaurant versions, the tender ground-beef-packed Moussaka ($15) was like a homey meat and potatoes dish done Greek-style. It was easy on the cinnamon and nutmeg, light on the tomato, but heavy in actual weight. Built upon a base of comforting spuds and capped with a semi-thick bechamel, this big ol' veritable doorstop of a good-eatin' casserole was a feeds-two serving of a soothing meal.
Aegean Chicken Style (sic, $14) was a mix of seared poultry strips, onions, peppers, tomatoes and zucchini laced with grated hard cheese. The sauceless result ate like Greek fajitas.
Like most entrees here, it came with a starter - go for the $1 Greek salad upgrade (again, far above average). Sidewise, I recommend opting for the huge and zingy lemon potatoes.
Of course there's nutty baklava ($3) for dessert, but for something more restrained in the sweetness department, try the homey cinnamon-sprinkled rice pudding ($3).
For more local food news and reviews, check out G.A. Benton's blog Under the Table at ColumbusDiningGuide.com.