Downtown Tulsa now has a taste of the Mediterranean as Zorba's Greek Grill opened less than a month ago. On the corner of 6th and Boston, this little space serves many Mediterranean classics as well as some Western foods, said operational manager Dean Alzaiem. Together with his wife Michelle Alvarado-Alzaiem, they have designed a little Greek getaway in the midst of downtown.
Lively Greek music greeted me as I entered Zorba's. This newly renovated grill is clean, bright and has a welcoming atmosphere. It's a small place, but so are many of these little downtown grills and restaurants that serve the lunch crowd. Dean said their idea is to serve "traditional Mediterranean recipes, some of the more authentic foods in a fast-paced lunch format." He said all is made from scratch.
Alzaiem said he, his wife and friends worked diligently transforming this place from a bike shop to a place that is "homey and cozy" for diners.
New tile and paint has given this place a respectable facelift for dining Greek style.
Dean and Michelle came from Los Angeles and patterned Zorba's after a deli in the Latino quarter of Los Angeles, which is close to a Greek Orthodox Church on Pico Boulevard and Normandy. They took the chance to replicate that deli here in Tulsa.
Diners order at the counter and the menu (above the counter) has both pictures of some menu selections as well as a written version of the dishes.
Appetizers include such traditional items as Hummus ($2.99), Dolma ($3.50), Falafel ($3.50) and Spanakopita ($3.50). One of my favorite aspects of Greek cuisine besides all the exotic tastes and textures is the healthiness of the foods. Take hummus, for example. Arabic for chickpea, hummus is simply Garbanzo Beans (aka chickpeas) and Tahini sauce (sesame seed paste) mixed together. Add a splash of extra virgin olive oil and a side of Pita Bread, and you have a healthy, tasty and filling dish. I had a taste of Zorba's hummus with my main meal, the Kufta Kabob Platter ($7.99). Dean said he puts "a good portion of tahini paste with lots of real garlic and olive oil into the hummus." And I could tell.
This hummus was one of the smoothest, creamiest and freshest I've tried. Possibly the amount of tahini paste and the fresh kick of garlic made the difference.
I also sampled the Dolma (Grape Leaves), Spanakopita (Spinach Pie) and one of my all-time favorites, Falafel. The Dolma is tender grape leaves rolled and filled with rice, olive oil and special Greek seasonings.
Primarily eaten in Middle Eastern homes in the summer and fall when the leaves are plentiful, Zorba's version of this popular dish was impressive. These were moist and rich with olive oil.
The Falafel, crispy patties of assorted ground beans, herbs and Lebanese spices, is served with yogurt sauce. The falafel I found to be a bit on the dry side. The creamy yogurt sauce helped, however.
The Spanakopita (spinach pie) was probably my least favorite among the appetizers. Normally one of my favorite Greek treats, Zorba's version was too dry--either fried too crispy or just was setting out too long under (or in) a heating element. The filo dough of these three triangular pieces was deeply browned and almost inedibly crispy. In addition, the feta cheese and spinach inside was dried, almost crispy. Because Zorba's was near closing when I was there, these possibly were some of the remaining spinach pies from the morning. Either way, I'll try them again when I return.
The Kufta Kabob Platter was fabulous and plentiful. This platter consisted of two charbroiled skewers of prime ground beef and a skewer of grilled vegetables served over seasoned basmati rice; pita bread and sides of Tabouli and hummus were also part of this platter. The grilled tubular-shaped finely-ground beef was very tender, with a mild grilled and spiced flavor. Parsley and onion also seemed to be in the meat as well.
The grilled veggies, large cuts of green bell pepper and white onion, maintained a firm integrity--not too wimpy and not too crispy. They were seasoned with olive oil and had a little charring to them that added to the grilled flavor.
You think rice is just rice--not until you've tasted this rice. An Indian rice, Basmati has small but long grains and Zorba's version is exceptionally moist with seasoning and olive oil. It assumed the taste of the grilled meat and veggies. It was as if it, too, were grilled alongside the veggies and beef.
The side of Tabouli was heavy on the parsley and light on the grain and lemon. The olive oil kept this salad together.
Finally, the classic gyros ($4.99). I couldn't leave without sampling Zorba's version of this classic sandwich. I was impressed with the rich taste of the meat and the yogurt sauce; it was a very good version of this common Greek sandwich.
It was packed with sliced gyro meat, Tzatziki yogurt sauce and garnished with iceberg lettuce, onion and diced tomato on pita flatbread. While a little messy to eat, this sandwich went down with much ease and enjoyment.
Beside the many traditional Mediterranean dishes, Zorba's also offers a Swiss and Mushroom Hamburger ($6.99), Hot Wings ($4.99), Philly Steak and Swiss Cheese ($7.99) and Grilled Chicken Salad ($5.99).
Dean said he and his wife studied the area for a while, contemplating whether the pedestrian and vehicle traffic would support a restaurant in this part of downtown.
"We took a high risk to open here, but so far we have had a great response," he said. And, as more people learn of Zorba's and walk by, the Greek music will be like sirens beckoning them within to enjoy a Mediterranean lunch.
Zorba's Greek Grill
601 S. Boston
Share this article: