Let me just start out that this post may be very long. It's actually my first post that I'm doing as a "food blogger" all my other ones were from either a picture or two, some from my cell phone or just from my memories. Today I went out with my group of friends from school which are mainly from U.N.I.T. an multi-cultural club formed on campus and I so happened to be president at the moment. We decided to go get some Greek food, which many of us haven't had it or maybe had a few dishes and haven't experienced the real sit in and adventure it would take us.
I picked Hellas Restaurant and Bakery without doing too much research. I was on Yelp.com (you can find me by clicking this link denalovesfood.yelp.com) and I researched the highest ratings "Greek food in Tarpon Springs" and Hellas came up and so that was it. I have never been to the sponge docks so it took me a few times to figure out where to park and where the restaurant was. With a little help from my friend who was already waiting there we all gathered everyone in no time. Driving past this restaurant you can't help but stare, there are blue lights that beam out at you and there seems to be no "real door", you can peer in and see all the tables and people eating. I though this was a pretty cool concept because it's unique and it pulls you in without you even knowing what's going on. Parking could be a bit tricky for newcomers like me, there's plenty of room in the back of the building and there's also a free parking area for Hellas costumers so don't worry about paying for parking.
The restaurant and bakery is very clean and is a very fun environment to be in. The restaurant is a bit dim and the interior is basically a blue wonderland. There are tons of tables and lots of mirrors so it does give you a little amusement. The bakery is pretty awesome too, the theme is red and it is brightly lit. The restaurant and bakery are opened to each other so you can easily walk over to both places without ever walking outside.
I had a decent group size so there will be a huge list of food that I've tried. I must say that every dish I've had tonight were amazing. We did have a problem with one dish, the Kalamari, but it was easily fixed. Everyone who works there are amazingly friendly and talkative. I especially liked out waiter, his name was Bryant or Brian? He was pretty handsome, just saying! Anyways at first I wasn't sure if he liked us because he was being sarcastic about everything but after awhile he was bring real with us. Giving us laugh and always being there for us. He was really an amazing waiter and it made the whole experience we had tonight a superb event.
We started off our wonderful night at Hellas with their saganaki, skordalia, hummas spread, broiled octopus and greek salad.
Saganaki (sounds japanese) is imported cheese that they put on flame in front of you. This is really a fun experience if you haven't seen it before and must I add, it taste great! I like to eat it with bread which are provided free of charge. This dish is very popular because I always see it on the menu everywhere and also when you walk into Hellas you may be walking past waiters putting a dish on fire so don't run away thinking they are crazy but enjoy the sight.
Skordalia is a potato garlic spread, it's a puree of garlic and potatoes which you can either use it as a dip or eat it with fried/boiled vegetables, fish and so on. I honestly don't find this dish that wonderful but that could because I'm not use to it. It's really strong but it's very good. If you really like garlic then this appetizer might be for you.
Hummas Spread is really good. It's served with pita bread which is one of my favorite thing to eat. The hummas isn't too strong nor is it too bland. I had fun eating this appetizer and if you want to try something that everyone knows about you should try this. It comes in two scoop/ball with an olive on each one (they still have their pit in so be careful). Warning if you're allergic to chickpeas or anything similar you may want to stay away!
Broiled octopus was amazing! It was a bit chewy but duhhh octopus aren't the most tender thing in the world. I thought this dish was really good especially the squeeze of lemon on it. I'm a crazy fan of octopus so I knew I was going to like this dish from the start. I could probably eat this as a meal (which they do have on the menu). It is a bit pricey but it was worth it. The blacken parts gave it such a charred flavor that got really addicting. I think this appetizer was awesome!
I don't have a picture of the Greek Salad because it came out ugly (the picture) but it was good. I wasn't crazy about the salad because it tasted like any other greek salad but it was a good appetizer to share. If you haven't had a greek salad before I advise you to try it because it's different from just any regular salad. There's a scoop of potato salad under all the lettuce, onion, tomatoes, olives, feta cheese and so on. The dressing is usually an original dressing that is mixed up at the restaurant or you can buy greek salad dressing at your local grocery store.
For our main meal there was a few people who got the gyro, the combination -spanakopita & tiropita, combination platter, marithes, and mediterranean seafood combo.
The Hellas Gyro was pretty simple. A mixture meat of lamb and beef and your veggies. I absolutely love gyros and it was pretty decent here at Hellas. I had a few pieces and it wasn't my favorite from all the dishes we had but it was something I would tell someone to try. I had a picture but it also came out ugly so I won't be using it. If you want to go to my favorite place to get gyros it would be in Palm Harbor area, a little place called Little Greek. Their gyros are really big and stuffed with lots of ingredients and it's more of a fast food style.
I also don't have a decent picture of the Combination plate of spanakopita and tropita which were amazing. My favorite out of the two would be spanakopita (spinach pie) which has a flaky pastry crust. This is a great dish that has no meat in it for non meat eaters and it comes with rice pilaf, daily vegetable, greek style potato, and fresh fruit of the day.
I ordered the Combination platter with my friend which runs to almost 20 dollars but I think it was worth it. It has everything someone would want to try on a single plate. There was gyro, mousaka, pastitiso, dolmades and tzatziki sauce. The gyro was talked about above and was probably the only thing that was left on the plate, the mousaka was something i don't remember having at all. It's basically a casserole of beef, eggplant, potatoes and cheese. The pastitso was one of my favorite on the dish! It's kind of like a greek version of lasagna, there's ziti, ground beef, romano cheese baked with a creamy sauce. At first I wasn't sure what it was and had to ask the waiter and bam! It was really delicious, the flavor wasn't too strong but was really mild on the tongue. I kept wanting more and more and the creamy sauce wasn't too rich but it probably wasn't the healthiest thing. The dolmades were good but I wasn't in love with it as much as I was with the pastitso. It's grounded up meat stuffed in grapevine leaves. It has a really unique taste to it and it brings a greek feel to your mouth. There was also rice pilaf and peas served with the meal and must I say that was absolutely amazing. It was moist and flavored perfectly, I could probably eat that as a meal if I could.
My friend whom sat across from me ordered the Marithes which are pan fried smelts. I didn't get to try one of the smelts but from the looks of what was left over he really cleaned it up. It looked appealing but I'm not a huge fan of eating fish.
The birthday girl ordered the Mediterranean Seafood combo which consisted of shrimp, scallop and catch of the day (fish). She also ordered the Kalamari but it was really overcooked and rubbery so we had to return that dish. I had a few bites off her dish and it was pretty good, the shrimp and scallop was really well cooked. Everything was gone by the end of the night so that's a good sign!
For dessert we ordered a few baklava and there was one who ordered a strawberry cheesecake and galactoumbourika (we had fun with this word it's sorta like gala -...- bootie - co). The baklava was amazing! Super sweet and oh so good. It's a flaky pastry filled with nuts, honey and oh sweetness goodies. This is a must try for people who are looking from some greek desserts. The strawberry cheese cake was good but I wasn't like omgah let me eat it all. The galactoumbouika was good it's a greek custard with a flaky pastry covering. The name just made the night fun. Since our waiter was amazing he came out with a birthday baklava for my friend.
I also went over to the bakery side to snap a few pictures so enjoy! (just click icon to enlarge)
Overall I had a really great experience at Hellas. Their food was amazing and the environment was super fun. Everyone there are friendly and have a humor side so break loose and enjoy your lunch/dinner.
This was our group and sitting in my seat is our wonderful waiter! I'm actually in the mirror in the background so it actually made it a perfect group picture, missing no one!
Hellas Restaurant & Bakery