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September 4, 2009

Ikaros, Samos and Zorba's

IkarosMeal.jpgOne thing we've talked about some but not much here is the restaurants in Greektown. I'm not even sure I could name all of them anymore.

When I first moved here, everyone went to Ikaros and the lines went out the door. Then somehow over the years the must-go label shifted to Samos, I'm not sure how. But Ikaros still has its loyal supporters.

And then there's the Zorba's faction. These aficionados insist that to go anywhere else for grilled lamb chops or whole fish just doesn't make sense. ...

These three restaurants all made it into the latest Zagat Survey, but there must be other worthy places in Greektown when they are too busy and all you want is some moussaka and a glass of wine. Over the years various restaurants with names like "The Acropolis" have come and sometimes gone.

What started me thinking about all this was an e-mail from Michelle that said:

I have never eaten at any of the restaurants in Greektown.  I don't see any specific links to Greek restaurants on your page.  I know that the conversations have encompassed Greek restaurants before but I don't know which ones they were.

Maybe a poll on which one of the three is better? Ha ha. Just kidding. Or you can post below. And we would like info on any others you've tried in Greektown besides the big three.

(Nanine Hartzenbusch/Sun photographer)

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 6:42 AM | | Comments (51)


I am also very interested to know which Greektown restaurants have the best Greek salads. I don't care for sweeter dressings, if that helps.

I can't recall going to greektown for dinner in years, I shudder to think of parking my car in that area.

I prefer Ikaros. I did not like Samos when I was there. It was a few years back. I do not think I have been to Zorba's.

Ikaos has the "village" salad, all the best goodies of the Greek salad but no iceberg lettuce. To me, that's the win. Their dressing is sharp and tangy. Another plus because I agree that the sweet dressings are distasteful.

Have a good weekend everyone! Drive safe! Eat well!

I like both, but I think the service at Ikaros is better. When my parents were in town, we tried to get into Samos, but there was a line out the door and they were putting up a "no more seatings" sign. My mother is not somebody who would be willing to wait in line anyway.

We went across the street to Ikaros and were greeted warmly and immediately shown to a table. The server discussed the wines with my father at length because he was not familiar with Greek wines. They amused my mother with the preparation of the flaming cheese. They even brought us a plate of complimentary desserts. It was a fine time and my parents describe it as one of their favorite Baltimore experiences.

I've been back a few other times and have always been charmed by the service. The food is good too.

Zorba's, Hands down! My Aunt and I go there every August to celebrate our birthday's together. In my opinion, Zorba's is far better than Ikaros or Samos. I've never had a bad meal there, the greek salad has no lettuce (awesome),and the service superior and always pleasant.(Try the grilled octopus,you won't be disappointed)

My vote goes to Zorbas between it and Ikaros. Samos I want to try, but we are always lured to our favorite table at Zorbas. It feels like family when you're there. Authentic music, Greek TV and everyone having a good time -- speaking Greek, of course. It's where Greeks go for food, not so touristy. Whole fish, lamb chops, octopus and the salad are delish! Plus literally watching them grill your meal to perfection through the large plate glass window is awesome. My mouth is watering already.

I always go to Samos because that's the first Greektown restaurant I was taken to, and I loved it. Never felt a need to try anything else. I hadn't even contemplated a world where 2 other restaurants would rival Samos in terms of Greek food.

Now I'm determined to try Ikaros and Zorbas. Thanks Mrs. Large!

Zorba's is as close to authentic Greek food and atmosphere as you can get. Ikaros, Samos are too watered down.

Maybe the chef was off or having a bad night but when we finally succumbed to Zorba's, it was a major disappointment. The lamb was gristley, the potatos mealy, the beans overcooked, you get the picture. Since then, when I suggest that we might give Zorba's another try, my wife thinks it over, then reminds me how much I enjoy the appetitzers and rockfish at Ikaros -- and we head for our old standby.

Ikaros, no contest. I've been going for years. It's a Baltimore landmark in a safe neighborhood with adequate street parking, friendly and competent servers and beautiful Greek decor.

Bel Air has Greek Village, known widely for the best breakfast in town. FWIW, I have never heard anyone talk about dinner there.

Zorba's over Samos for me. The octopus and grilled meats at Zorba's are outrageously good. Ditto the pita. Have not tried Ikaros yet, but will eventually.

...Truthfully though, some of my favorite Greek food eating is at the Greek festival in June. I look forward to it every year.

There are only a few restaurants where, after I eat there I honestly can't figure out why I ever eat anywhere else. Samos is one of those places.

Ikaros has the BEST grrek salad, hands down. The food there is great.

Zorba's strength is their grilled lamb. Everyhting else therer is just so-so.

Samos to me has gone down hill a little as it seems that it;ls gone up a bit in price while the portions have shrunk dramatically. I got a leg of lamb platter there recently for $15 or so, but the content was fairly light for that price.

Argh, now I REALLY want Greek food... We lived on Crete for two years - the food there was incredible. Even the french fries, cooked in olive oil, were unlike anything I'd had or anything I've had since.

I like Samos, but I now travel all the way to Greektown for the Mexican conchas at Pastelleria Vargas on Eastern Avenue.

Anyone have an opinion on Acropolis? Thanks so much for the feedback so far...

My all time favorite greek restaurant is Ikaros. No contest between any of the others. I have tried them all. Zorba's food was just o.k. akthough the meat was actually a little dry. Samos is overrated, again the food is alright but not that tasty. Ikaros has the best greek salad I have ever had in the world. I might even be disappointed if I went to Greece on that one. The moussaka is just sublime. Love the appetizers of grape leaves and spinach pie. I'm ready to get my fix right now!

We dined at Acropolis a few years back, so I can't comment on it currently. But I did have a great vegetarian mousaka, which isn't always easy to find (I don't eat beef). I'm going to try to convince the wife that we need to go out for Greek this weekend, so if we go there again, I'll report back.

Zorba's, no contest.

Ikasambas, no contest.

I live in Greektown and have been to two of the listed restaurants.
Also, there is no need to shudder at the thought of parking your car here. There is always parking to be found, you just need to know how to parallel park.
Zorbas has amazing lamb chops as well as char-grilled octopus. The black striped bass and kontosouvli (the pork) are also to die for.
Samos is a favorite of ours for their hand-held goodies, such as the gyro or shrimp wrap and a crowd pleaser: shrimp haloumi (not so much hand-held but not an entree sized portion either). Their spinach pie isn't bad and their salad dressing is very good.
And don't forget about the little Greek bakery's on Eastern. You can find some great authentic sweets, bread and other delish finds.

What do Greek salads consist of if lettuce is not included. Also, could someone kindly describe egg-lemon soup tastes like? Does it have a similiare consistancy to egg-drop soup?

NotableM. Greek salads typically consist of lettuce, red onion, green pepper, tomato, olives, feta cheese, maybe some cucumber, maybe some oregano, and the dressing.

The best part about Samos is their Tour of Samos. You get Greek salad, pita and tzatziki, spinach pie, dolmades, grilled shrimp, gyro, calamari, and lamb chops. It's a buttload of food for 20 bucks or so.

Oh yea, you also get olive oily lemony roasted potatoes.

This is a great topic. Posts like these can have the power to inspire us to go try these restaurants and weigh in on the debate. And bring some business to Baltimore icons.

I've been to Samos multiple times (but not for a couple of years) because that was the first Greek restaurant I was taken to in Baltimore. I've always enjoyed my meals there and have also taken visitors there.

I believe I went to Acropolis once and had the traditional moussaka and enjoyed it.

I am intrigued about Ikaros & Zorbas and will probably try them along with Samos again so that I can really weigh in on which is the best.

Well, a real "Greek salad," or horiatiki (village) salad as it's known in Greece, doesn't usually have lettuce. The first time I had a Greek salad here & it had lettuce, I was very confused. The basic ingredients of a true Greek salad are cucumber (always), tomato, feta, and olive oil. Similar village salads are also served in Bulgaria and other Balkan states.

I go to Ikaros for their squid ala Ikaros (with tomato and ink sauce). You've got to try it at least once.

I spend my summers in Greece, and a real greek salad does NOT have lettuce, as sean pointed out. Usually they have cucumber, tomatoes, feta, onions, and olives.

Now I really, REALLY want some Greek food.

Dang, I haven't been to Ikaros in years, but suddenly my mouth is watering for dolmades and avgolemono and spanakotiropita and souvlaki and pastitsio and moussaka and braised lamb shanks and ... well, you get the picture.

NotableM, avgolemono (egg lemon soup) is a chicken stock base, and the end product is creamy and tastes of chicken and lemon with an eggy undertone; some cooks add orzo pasta, but it's not needed. It's a wonderful soup that's pretty easy to make, as long as you don't cook the eggs so fast that they curdle.

Hello everyone. I'm very glad to see all the great comments about the restaurants in Greektown. My father is owner of Samos, and he has worked very hard over the past 32 years to bring great Greek food at a reasonable price to Baltimore, as have the owners of Ikaros, Zorbas, and Acropolis. I'm really happy to hear that after all these years, there is still a buzz around our great little neighborhood. I'm an avid reader of this blog, so if anyone has any comments or suggestions for me, feel free to post them and I'll be sure to read them. Thank you for your continuted support throughout these years, and hope to see you soon.

Bravo Michael. On your comments about the buzz. Suggestions?
Please pick up the phone cause a lot of us are trying to order carry out from your restaurant but can't.

The busy signal seems to be something a lot of people get annoyed would I when I have a craving for Samos. The problem is not that we are on the phone, but that we have taken the phone off the hook. During lunch, we get pretty busy, and it is difficult for the waitresses to take care of the tables, as well as the customers waiting in line to place carryout orders. So answering the phone would slow them down a lot. We have tried to alleviate this by hiring someone to take carryout orders, answer the phones, and help bag orders, but sometimes that still isn't enough. It has helped, but Friday's and Saturday's can still just be a little too much for us back in the kitchen. The best thing I would suggest for you to do is call before 11 a.m.(as early as 9:30) and tell us your order, and when you will be picking it up. If you know ahead of time that you will be picking up food, then we can have it ready for you, and you won't hear that annoying busy signal when you call.

Thanks for bringing that up because I get a lot of comments from our website about that.

I would be hard pressed to express a fasvorite over the four restaurants mentioned..however I will say I miss the Athenian(the Eastern Ave version) and the rather short lived reincarnation Opa's...

I prefer the greek salad at Zorbas. It does not have any lettuce but has plenty of tomatoes, green peppers, black olives, red onion and of course, feta all dressed with an excellent homemade vinegrette.

forgot...there's also cucumber in the salad...

Michael, thanks for being public and responsive. I've seen how it's just too busy at lunchtime rush to handle the phone and how hard the servers hustle. Love that red pepper hummus dip and the real chicken soup.

I made a greek salad using the tomatoes and cucumbers from my garden along with Newman's Own Greek Vinagrette Dressing yesterday for a baby shower. It was a big hit and several people wanted my "secret recipe." I am making again for a cookout today ;)

My wife and I try to get to Zorba's at least once or twice a month. I can never get past ordering one of the fantastic fish, grilled whole. She always gets the lamb chops. The stuffed grape leaves are fantastic.

Zorba's is only open for dinner beginning at 5p.m.

A tip for those wanting to visit the restaurants mentioned:
Samos - closed Sundays
Ikaros - closed Tuesdays
Zorbas - opens daily at 5 p.m.
Acropolis - open daily

Speaking of greek food... where do you think has the best gyros (not nec Greektown)?

I grew up in Pikesville/Randallstown back in the day and the Greek Village sub shop on the corner of Milford Mill and Liberty road made the biggest and best ever. And... THEY STILL DO. It is quite a hike for me now living in Perry Hall but whenever I am in the area I make the stop. Think the Captain Harveys of gyros. BIG and tender, YUM!

@ sean. Ikaros (my favorite of the bunch) also has a vegetarian moussaka on the menu.

Yia Yia's bakery in White Marsh has THE BEST greek desserts...hands down! A lot of the local greek restaurants go to them for their dessert selection...definitely when your in the area, take the time to stop in and visit. Beautiful place, with huge cases filled to the brim with beautiful sweets!

Is The Easter House still in business in Greektown? My husband's Greek grandparents ate their religously once-a-week.

I haven't been there in a very long time but when I went, the food was great.

*Eastern House

Yes Eastern House is still open.

Eastern House isn't in Greektown, it's next door in Highlandtown. Unless there's another Eastern House that I don't know about.

Yes, Eastern House is in Highlandtown. It's just up the street from ...wait for it...wait for it... CHICKEN RICO!!!

Eastern House is still good, lots nicer than a fast food place and bargain-oriented.

To clarify, Eastern House is sort of darkly dateworthy, a bit like Pappas, with real entrees and nice atmosphere, a welcoming staff and owners. Parking isn't that easy at Conkling and Eastern, and it is set among less upscale neighbors, but it's good. It won't be crowded when there's a line at Samos. It's more Americanized than the Greektown spots. The crabcake was pretty good, but we know what being affordable means.

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About this blog
Richard Gorelick was appointed The Baltimore Sun's restaurant critic in September 2010. Before joining the paper staff fulltime, he contributed freelance criticism and features articles about food to area and regional publications. Along the way, he dispatched for short-distance trucking companies, shilled for cultural non-profits, and assisted in cognitive neurology research – never the subject, always the control.

He takes restaurants seriously but not himself, and his favorite restaurant is the one you love, too.

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