I finally got to enjoy what is often voted the best Greek food in town. I went to Christos on a Saturday afternoon with J, with whom I was going on a second date.
A few weeks back at The Muddy Pig, he got my attention by declaring his love of utilitarian furniture. With a tone that sounded like the lovable Julia Child met the refined Martha Stewart, he said, “If I could have my way, my house would be full of credenzas. There’s just so much you can DO with them!”
Last weekend, he proposed we get lunch and check out Josef Sudek’s photography at the MIA. I chose Christos right away given the museum’s brilliant proximity to Eat Street (and because a certain food critic at MSP magazine suggested as much). It was a great choice.
Christos at noon on a Saturday looks like a Mediterranean getaway. It has a large, comfortable dining room with an open kitchen, and the tall ceilings, white walls, ample plants, and big windows bring in lots of sunshine, like you’re hanging out in the courtyard of your seaside hotel (wearing a sweater and snowboots to ward off the Minnesota winter, of course). The place was busy, and at that hour, you get to eat alongside lunching ladies and families young and old. There’s something very “of the city” about it, and it couldn’t be any more different from their location in St. Paul’s neoclassical train station, Union Depot, which makes you feel like you have but a few minutes to feed your lifelong love falafel and grape leaves before dashing off to meet your train.
In any case, my date and I shared spanakopita, mousaka, dolmathes (grape leaves), melintzanosalata (roasted eggplant dip), avgolemono (soup described as “traditional egg-lemon delight”), and milopita (glazed apple slices baked in phyllo with ricotta and cream cheese).
All of the food was fresh, served at the perfect temperature, attractive, and satisfying. It looked and tasted like the Platonic version of Greek food. The only thing I questioned was the phyllo dessert served sitting in a pool of syrup, which is not my favorite place to keep a flaky pastry. Is this how it’s supposed to be?
We also had Retsina with our meal, the allegedly harsh tavern wine that gets its pine flavor from the resin traditionally used to seal whatever vessel wine was stored in. I’d never tried it before and was clearly curious, so the server offered a taste of the two types served by the glass: Tsantali and Achaia Clauss. (They have three more kinds served by the bottle.) I was impressed with how easy it is to drink. We settled on Achaia Clauss and drank it right down.
At one point, I casually said something to J about the music I play while I cook. For a long time, I cooked while listening to records — Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel, Carole King. Stuff like that.
Thinking nothing of it, J said, “Ella Fitzgerald is my cooking music” as he dug into another portion of our meal.
And I think it was at that point I knew he was someone to pay attention to.
Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful…all of it. I love that you were surprised at how easy the wine was to drink. And it’s all so romantic: sharing the food, trying the wines, and Ella Fitzgerald! Now here’s the thing – do you think he could possibly have prepared for that conversation? Because I don’t. Which means he gets even more points for way-above-average answer to a spontaneous question. Too bad you’re not doing a review of the museum so we could all know what came next.
Sigh. What a lovely story. Please tell us more.
You’re right, Claudia. His answer was spontaneous AND way above average. At the museum, the first thing that came out of his mouth is that we couldn’t skip the gift shop. Now I think that’s a good sign, too.
Carrie, Christos (at Union Station) was where Rick (my brother) and Maria held their wedding reception. So beautiful and the food was authentic Greek. Add to that a Greek band, ouzo, and some relatives who couldn’t speak any English and it was a wonderful time! They have been to Greece twice since then, once for a delayed honeymoon and once for the wedding of Maria’s favorite cousin. Rick is in love with the people, language, and food, and that Nebraska boy feels right at home in the Greek culture.
Jill – It’s such a romantic place for a wedding reception and I can see why you have fond memories of it. The whole station makes me want to run into a star-crossed love, you know, between trains, accidentally by dropping my book at his feet. When are you coming back to MN?