Opa! Annual Houston Greek Fest Offers Traditional Flavors And Entertainment
For Houstonians who dig dishes like pastichio, souvlaki, dolmathes and loukoumades — or just want to find out what all those things are — the Houston Greek Fest held May 17 though 20 gives guests an immersive experience in taste and culture. It is held on the grounds of St. Basil Greek Orthodox Church at 1100 Eldridge Parkway, which will also be open for tours during the event.
Admission is free with a donation of three canned goods per person, which will be given to the Houston Food Bank. Without a food donation, admission is $3 per person. Early-bird tickets are available online for $20 and include admission for one adult, one dinner plate, and choice of a souvlaki, gyro, Greek salad, or assorted pastry box. Parking is available on site for $10 per vehicle with street parking on a first-come first-served basis. Guests are encouraged to indulge responsibly and utilize Uber or Lyft for safety and convenience.
An all-volunteer cooking team of nearly 50 serves up more than 15,000 meals throughout the annual event. “All of the food is made on site,” says festival committee member Chris Petros. “Anyone who knows about Greeks knows that the ladies who prepare this food take such pride in its preparation and such attention to detail. They don’t cut corners.”
The most popular food option, according to Petros, is the pastichio dinner plate for $14. Per its name, the cornerstone dish is the famed Greek dish, pastichio, that is similar to lasagna. It combines layers of plump, tubular pasta, savory ground beef, and tomato sauce flavored with onions, garlic and olive oil. Hits of earthy cinnamon and nutmeg contrast with a generous topping of creamy béchamel sauce. Also on the plate is a Greek salad, spanakopita (phyllo dough stuffed with spinach and cheese), tiropita (a cheese pastry), keftedes (Greek meatballs) and bread. The lamb dinner plate for $14 includes the same components but substitutes lamb and rice for the pastichio and meatballs. “We have a roasted leg of lamb that is out of this world,” says Petros. “It’s crusted with oregano and lemon juice, slow cooked for extreme flavor, and then served with rice.”
Vegetarians can order the veggie dinner plate for $14 that includes two spanakopita, two tiropita, two dolmathes (grape leaves stuffed with rice), rice, Greek salad and bread. A la carte items include spanakopita and tiropita for $3 each, three dolmathes for $5, and new Greek fries seasoned with spices and feta for $5.
In addition to the wildly popular gyros and souvlaki (seasoned pork kebabs), there is a Greek-meets-Italy selection of pizzas that Petros says have proven especially popular with kids. Selections include cheese pizza or pepperoni pizza for $6 and a Greek pizza made with spinach, gyro meat, garlic sauce, feta, mozzarella and provolone cheese for $7.
For a sweet hit, the fest offers loukoumades (hot fried dough puffs with honey) at $4 and $11 depending on order size, a variety of traditional cookies and pastry sample boxes. The over-the-top Never on a Sundae pairs sinfully sweet, flaky and nutty baklava over vanilla ice cream for $3.
No Greek party is complete without liquid refreshment, which the festival serves up in spades. Find Greek beer, wine and the festival’s special cocktail, the OPA-rita. The latter is a slushy concoction that swaps Greece’s silky, anise-laced Ouzo liqueur for tequila and sets guests back $7. Greek wines are available for $25 for a bottle and $6 for a glass. Also available is chardonnay produced by the monks of the Holy Archangels monastery in Kendalia, Texas for $35 a bottle. Non-alcoholic options include fresh-squeezed lemonade, sodas and bottled water.
Besides consuming one’s weight in Greek delicacies, festival-goers can watch dance performances, shop from a variety of vendors and listen to live Greek music. Visitors can also take photos with the Warriors of Greece hoplite reenactment troupe on Friday and Saturday and learn more about Ancient Greek warriors during a presentation on Saturday, however, the group not be performing a reenactment.
“We want everyone to come and enjoy and learn about Greek culture,” says Petros. “And the food we have is the same that we make for our families, done with fresh ingredients and made with pride and love.”
Houston Greek Fest runs Thursday through Sunday, May 17 to May 20. Hours on Thursday are 4 to 9 p.m., and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Sunday hours are noon to 5 p.m.