Hellas means ‘Greece’ in Greek. By the crowd waiting outside to get in, it should also mean “there is a good reason to try out our restaurant”. Open since 1970, this is one popular place. Be aware that Hellas is billed by locals as a tourist trap. Located in a prime spot in the center of the sponge dock area on Dodeconese Avenue, it is the easiest for tourists to find.
Beautiful tile-topped tables are arranged inside and outside. Choose an outdoor one for great people watching and enjoying the Florida weather on a sunny day.
If you are there long enough, someone will order the Saganaki – flaming imported Greek cheese. The flames are spectacular and everybody in the restaurant yells “Opa!” when it happens. The tasty cheese is served with pita and definitely worth a try.
The menu features a wide variety of Greek cuisine – Kabobs, Gyros, Soulaki – chunks of marinated pork served just like a gyro and chicken Souvlaki, if like me you don’t eat pork. My husband’s favorite is the Keftedes – Greek-style meatballs. They also serve a traditional Greek salad for one, two or four, pan-fried squid, Greek style shrimp, roast leg of lamb and whole fish dinners. The list goes on. My personal favorite is the delicious Greek-style lamb chops charbroiled Athenian style with oregano, olive oil and lemon sauce. I get the lemon sauce on the side as I like to enjoy the simple flavor of the lamb with just the oregano and olive oil.
Most entrees come with rice and a vegetable. Every time I have dined there, it has been green beans. My biggest compliant is a lot of stuff is drowning in tomato sauce which I don’t think the food needs.
Desserts come from the bakery attached to the restaurant or you can just visit the bakery.Pastries are what Hellas does best. There are so many choices it’s hard to decide – Baklava in several flavors, Folites (phyllo dough round filled with ground walnuts, ground almonds, topped with sweet sticky apricot, pistachio bits, and honey), Kataifi (shredded phyllo dough filled with walnut and honey filling), Ergoslavos (2 biscuit cookies filled with apricot and studded with almonds), Kourambiethes (butter almond wedding cookies), Kok (2 thin vanilla cake layers filled with creamy custard), Pasta (3-layer cakes coated in chocolate), rice pudding and several flavors of cheesecake. My favorite is Galaktoboureko – a custard encased in a top and bottom layer of phyllo dough and lightly drizzled with honey. It is best enjoyed slightly warm if you are lucky enough to get it freshly baked with a dollop of real whipped cream and dusting of cinnamon. Breads such as the sweet Tsoureki Easter bread with a colored hard boiled egg in the middle are also available. Bring a cooler so you can take home some Greek treats. And what goes better with dessert than one of their coffees made to order. For those that don’t like pastries, ice cream is also available.
Check out their website at www.http://hellasbakery.com
(This is an updated version of a review I wrote for IGOUGO.com in March 2002.)