Olympia Kebob House and Taverna has been perched on the border between Maplewood and Dogtown on McCausland Avenue for as long as we can remember. Through the years the restaurant has garnered a reputation for serving for no-nonsense Mediterranean fare with few frills. We hadn’t stopped by in a long while, so we recently made our way back to see if Olympia was still the same comfortable, tasty neighborhood joint we remembered.
The decor certainly hadn’t been altered much since our last visit. The interior of Olympia still sported the same aged-wood paneling and beer company promo mirrors on the walls. We didn’t recall the refrigerator on the edge of the dining room that the cooks kept visiting to replenish the line, but in our opinion, it added to the ambiance. The feel of the place was very much that of a South City dive bar, which happily is one of our favorite restaurant themes!
Lately we’ve tried the hummus at several places around town, and have been disappointed in the generally pasty, tasteless varieties we’ve been served. The Hummus ($9) at Olympia broke that cycle. It was made with the same ground chick peas and tahini as the others, but it had tons of garlic and a sharp lemon tang. The serving we received was generous, as well. We had to ask for some extra pita bread to finish it up.
It’s probably a cliche, but whenever we go to a Mediterranean place, we feel compelled to order a gyro. We consider it to be a benchmark of sorts. The Deluxe Gyro ($10) at Olympia featured a mixture of rotisseriebroiled ground lamb and beef piled on a pita and topped with onions, tomatoes and tzatziki sauce, the same as the regular gyro, but boasted the addition of shredded lettuce and feta cheese. This gyro was so hefty, we’re not ashamed to say we had to dig in with a knife and fork and whittle it down a bit before we could fold it over and eat it properly. The meat was tender, the sauce tangy. Exactly what a gyro should be.
When at all possible, we try and order the specialty of the house when we visit a restaurant, and at Olympia, the Shish Kebob Deluxe Platter is one of the dishes with that distinction on the menu. The platter is available with lamb ($17), chicken ($16) or pork ($15), and we opted for the chicken. The platter was another huge portion, with the skewered roasted meat served on a bed of rice with sauteed green peppers, feta cheese, tomatoes, olives, slices of cucumbers and pepperoncini with pita bread. Our chicken was a little bit dry, but the veggies were wellcooked, especially the cucumbers. We left the table full, and carted home plenty of leftovers.
Like our gyro rule, we always have to indulge in baklava after a Mediterranean meal. The Baklava ($5) at Olympia had tender, flaky dough and plenty of sweet honey. Like the other dishes we enjoyed, it wasn’t fancy, just good.
We’re pleased to report that Olympia is still carrying the torch for simple, good food at reasonable prices. Opa!
Olympia Kebob House and Taverna, 1543 McCausland Ave., 781-1299