Get Yourself To The Greek

Greek Food Festival
38th Annual Greek Food Festival
September 24 - 26, 2010

Two ways to know it’s autumn in Vegas: you stop sweating in the shade and you can hear bouzouki music when you get near the corner of Jones and Hacienda. Yeah! This is the weekend of the Greek Food Festival at St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church. I headed over there today so I could give y’all a glimpse of what you’ll be missing if you don’t get yourself over there on Saturday or Sunday.

Worried about parking? Don’t be. While you may not score a spot right in front of the church (well, I did, but I arrived at 3:30), you can catch a ride from wherever you do park on one of the circulating shuttle buses. It’s all very well organized, and they’ve doubled the amount of street parking by letting cars park diagonally on Hacienda instead of nose-to-tail along the curb.

Saganaki on the grill
Saganaki on the grill

Admission is $6 for adults, and if you leave, you can get your hand stamped for reentry. Once you’re inside, the options for enjoyment are many: food, art, food, jewelry, food, children’s play area, food, church tours, food, Greek souvenirs, food, music, food, dancing, food, drinks, food, food, and food. This is an ideal ratio, and the festival’s signature combination dinner was my first purchase. For $14, I received a groaning plate piled with lamb, pastitsio, dolmades, Greek salad, and a roll. A Greek beer—Mythos brand from Thessaloniki—helped wash it all down, and an order of saganaki (fried cheese flambéed with brandy) ensured I was too stuffed to try any of the other mezedes: loukaniko, tzatziki, kalamari, and hummus. And I could only look longingly at the souvlaki, gyros, and Greek fries.

Greek pastries
A small selection of the delectable Greek pastries available at the festival

Since food was (at least temporarily) no longer a viable option for me, I moseyed through the lovely colonnades, where, along with a variety of Greek merchandise, there was—yes!—more food. While I didn’t indulge, the lineup of Greek pastries equaled those in a genuine Athenian zaharoplastio. I did enjoy a paper demitasse of perfectly crafted Greek coffee.

While I was at the festival too early to watch the field full of round tables in front of the stage fill up with revelers, I did listen to the bands prepare for the evening ahead of them. The festival’s organizers make a point of getting popular Greek bands, and they’ve also invested in an excellent sound system. I have a feeling the music is going to carry even farther than the aroma of roast lamb for the next couple of days.

For a weekend, the organizers and the legions of volunteers of St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church have succeeded in beaming Greece to Las Vegas. It’ll be gone by Monday, so don’t miss your fleeting chance to enjoy it.