With McDonald’s prices heading toward $10 for a Double Quarter Pounder with cheese meal, you might as well go for fast food that tastes good and gives you fewer calories from fat. A pita bread at Estia (Greek for “fireplace”) costs $10.60, although I admit it does come with fries. Inside.
I really enjoyed the wraps, bowls and salads at Estia, although on a Friday night visit the place was loud and hectic. (Two groups of parents had wisely seated their children at the children’s tables.) A late Saturday, on the other hand, was as quiet as it gets.
Some of the goodness comes from real lamb and pork belly. It’s not always easy to find lamb, even in a Lebanese restaurant, so I order it when I can get it. Other standout ingredients, as you mix and match, are a particularly creamy feta and a garlic sauce that’s just the right balance between tart and tender.
Owners Nina and Paul Bittas and cousin George Xenos wanted to serve customers the foods they grew up eating — “Kalamatas, olive oil, feta are staples in our homes,” Nina said — but with some modern additions. For example, they use feta imported from Greece, “not Bulgarian or French”, but serve non-Greek quinoa and hummus, for example, and their take on pico de gallo (“Greek-o de gallo”). They opened an Estia (es-TEE-a) in Troy in 2016, added a Warren store and food truck, and came to Grosse Pointe Woods last December.
Nina Bittas, who lives in the Pointes, says the food there doesn’t have “a lot of variety, it’s kinda bland. So something like this with more flavor, not some kind of meatloaf and potatoes,” has been a hit.
At the store, go in line and tell the friendly counter clerks, Subway style, what-anything you want in your bowl, salad, or wrap, choosing from columns of grain bases (white and brown rice, quinoa), proteins , toppings and sauces. One evening I chose a bowl of rice pilaf, lamb, garlic sauce, hummus, lots of vegetables, olives and a lemon oregano broth.
Another night it was much the same, but with charred chicken, stewed peas and florina, a spicy fresh tomato sauce made from Nina’s uncle’s recipe, a “Greek salsa” with jalapeño. An iceberg salad was similarly loaded, with much except beets, red onion, and twice as much Greek dressing you could use, graciously served on the side.
This all adds up to a dish that serves for two, so you can lower your price per person for a fast food bowl to $6.70. Compare to $8.19 for a Big Mac meal.
Everything is packaged for take-out, right down to the plastic-wrapped fork-spoon-knife and carrying case, even when you’re eating. A plant-based plastic lid is labeled “turns to soil when commercially composted”; do not try this at home.
Nina Bittas assured me that pork belly on a spit is the real Greek gyros – in Greece 90% is pork – so it’s listed on the menu as ‘traditional’. It was Greek immigrants to the US who popularized the beef-and-lamb combo Estia calls “Americano.”
I liked both and found the lamb beef mix lots of lamb. The pork is particularly rich and tender, and your pita bread can be slathered with “YCG” sauce (yogurt-cucumber-garlic). Pita is made to order in-house and you can watch the workers roll it out on the grill.
Fries are crispy and you can also order them fancy with feta and olive oil. Hummus was pure chickpea flavor and lacked the garlic I prefer. The only dish at Estia that I didn’t like was chicken lemon rice soup: the rice was too dissolved, creating a gelatinous texture.
You might miss it when you come through the front door (there’s a free parking lot in the back), but look for the suitcase with spinach filo pastry and feta phyllo triangles.
Since I always have room for dessert, I would like to remind the owners of Estia that Greece has a noble dessert tradition and it is called baklava. If you don’t want to make baklava (you won’t), you can buy it from any number of reputable establishments, and no one will mind if they’re Arabic, not Greek.
The food truck Estia visits breweries and private parties and is currently in the Troy store, which is closed for renovations. Unlike the Grosse Pointe Woods location, Troy and Warren are open on Sundays. They are at 2897 West Maple Rd. (248-537-2050) and 5753 Twelve Mile Rd. (586-248-4999), respectively.
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