The sights, smells and spanakopita associated with the annual party Tucson Greek Festival will not be present along East Fort Lowell Road this year.
The property belonging to St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church, which has housed the Greek festival for more than 45 years, was auctioned off in August.
A new church and event center is being built at 3939 N. Alvernon Way, but church leaders are again waiting to host the festival until construction is complete.
The past few years have been difficult for Greek cuisine with the closure of The Greek House and Fronimo’s Greek Café on East Speedway, and Pelio Grill on East University.
People also read…
But there are still a few places in town where you can enjoy tasty dishes of dolmades, gyros, lamb and Greek chicken.
Here are some places where you can still eat like a Greek.
Santorini Greek Coffee
2545 E. Speedway, greektucson.com
Authenticity is key at Santorini Greek Café, named after the Greek island known for its cliffside houses and stunning views in all directions.
The view from the café is a little less breathtaking – an Eegee’s and the Chinese restaurant Old Peking across a busy East Speedway – but we think you’ll probably be too busy feasting on owner Fatos’ culinary creations “Foti” Alushaj to even notice.
Alushaj learned the ins and outs of traditional Greek cuisine in Athens and Crete before moving to Tucson six years ago. He also worked at several restaurants in Tucson, including the now closed Athens on Fourth, before opening Santorini in March 2021.
One of its signature dishes is an authentic Greek gyro, which is made with chicken or pork.
“When you’re in Greece, that’s what you’re going to find,” Alushaj said. “Chicken or pork gyros. I also make my own tzatziki.
Santorini also offers a beef and lamb meat gyro, as well as all the must-haves: lamb chops, eggplant-based moussaka, soutzoukakia (meatballs in tomato sauce). All food is ordered from the register and brought to your table.
Santorini’s is open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
Opa’s Best Greek American Food
4950 E. Broadway, oppositebook.com/opasbesttucson
It can be difficult to find a time of day when Opa’s Best isn’t busy.
This spacious Greek restaurant, located in what was once the Zivaz Mexican Bistro on East Broadway, is a hive of activity during its lunch and dinner hours.
Guests are served free pita, hummus, and tzatziki (Opa’s version of chips and salsa) when they sit down. Portions are generous, with meat and vegetarian options, including chicken souvlaki, gyro platters, lamb chops, and hummus wraps, available.
The lunch menu is extensive and the dinner menu is even larger. Regular orders of flaming saganaki, Greek kasseri cheese with brandy and lemon, flaming at your table, keep faces warm when the temperature drops outside.
Opa’s Best, in operation since 2018, also offers a selection of Greek beers and wines to sample, in addition to a few Greek-inspired cocktails. For a truly Greek flavor, try Opa’s Best Fix cocktail, with ouzo, freshly squeezed lemon juice, triple sec and Angostura bitters.
Opa’s Best is open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday to Saturday.
500 N. Fourth Ave., opsgrill.com
If you like the food that Opa’s Best offers, but find yourself closer to the city center, you can visit their second location, Opa’s Grill, which opened a year ago in Old Athens on the Fourth space on North Fourth Ave.
Owner Qais Papoutsis told The Star in 2020 that Opa’s Grill had filled a void left by Athens when it closed.
“Every town you go to, downtown has had a good Greek restaurant for many years,” he said.
The second location shares Opa’s best menu with perhaps a bit more ambience; a place where kids from the nearby University of Arizona can take their parents when mom and dad come to visit.
Opa’s Grill is open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday to Saturday.
It’s Greek to me
15920 N. Oracle Road, itsgreektomecatalina.com
Geographically, It’s Greek To Me is the Thessaloniki (the second largest city in Greece) of Greek restaurants in the Tucson area, located at the northernmost point of Pima County in Catalina.
It’s good for folks in Oro Valley, Saddlebrooke, and unincorporated North Pima County, who don’t have to travel far to get their fix of Greek cuisine.
The restaurant has had several owners over the past 20 years, but is currently run by husband and wife team David and Kaitlyn d’Auteuil, former employees who met while working there.
The d’Auteuils were dismayed when they learned that the restaurant had been closed.
“We had a lot of memories there,” said David d’Auteuil. “We both loved the restaurant and couldn’t believe it was closed. We thought there was no way this place wasn’t here. The community has always liked that.
The couple signed the lease and reopened using some of the Greek recipes they had learned during their time as employees.
Five years later, the d’Auteuils enjoy regular activity, especially on Friday and Saturday evenings.
“We always recommend reservations,” said David d’Auteuil. “People reacted really well and have been supporting us ever since.”
It’s Greek To Me describes itself on its site as scratch food, with seafood (salmon, dipping scallops, fisherman’s stew) and gluten-free options, as well as Greek pastries.
Grab a plate of pastitsio – braised ground beef cooked with pasta then topped with béchamel and braised lamb shank sauce – then share a dessert, perhaps a baklava or sokolatopita – a chocolate cake dipped in buttery sauce and brandy, and served with berries and cream – with your loved one.
David d’Auteuil said the grilled octopus was a fan favorite at the restaurant.
The seafood mix, with fresh fish, shrimp, clams and mussels simmered in a butter-wine broth, with sun-dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, black olives and spinach over pasta , is another, said Kaitlyn d’Auteuil.
“It was a special that we started doing on the weekends,” she added. “It has become so popular that we have made it a regular menu item.”
It’s Greek to Me is open from 12:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.