Wichita has been mourning the absence of an authentic Greek restaurant since Lakis Restaurant at 3219 S. Oliver closed in the late 1990s. “Does Wichita have any Greek restaurants?” is one of the most frequent questions I get from readers (second only to “Is Wichita ever going to get a Cheesecake Factory?”).
The answer to the second question is now and likely always will be no.
But the answer to the first question is now yes.
Kosta the Greek is drawing crowds to the spot at 2308 S. Meridian formerly occupied by Habanero. It’s owned by Kosta Kiosses, a transplant from Greece. Kiosses and his wife, Maria, had been selling spinach pies and other Greek treats at the Old Town Farmers’ Market for the past couple of summers and had earned a loyal following.
Kiosses now has those spinach pies – called spanakopita – plus several other authentic Greek specialties at his new stationary restaurant, which opened in late February.
ON THE MENU: Kiosses offers a daily menu stuffed with famous Greek dishes such as gyro, souvlaki (a marinated pork kebab), Greek salad, lemon fries, homemade tzatziki sauce, Greeked-up burgers and more. He also rotates in daily specials, such as moussaka (a Greek casserole), souzoukaki (Greek meatballs in red sauce over rice), pastichio (a Greek pasta bake) and more.
DON’T-MISS DISHES: Since dining at Kosta the Greek, I can’t stop thinking about big hunks of salty feta cheese and creamy, garlicky tzatziki sauce so wonderful that an astute foodie friend described it as such: “Holy hell, I could bathe in it.”
The other dishes were good, too.
My favorite was the gyro meat, available in a sandwich or on a platter. We sampled it on the Greek platter, which was $9.99 and also was piled with souvlaki, soft pita, tzatziki sauce, a small Greek salad and Greek fries, which are steak fries doused in lemon juice and topped with crumbled, herbed feta cheese.
The gyro is moist and perfectly flavored and best eaten stuffed inside the pillowy pita and topped in the cucumber-y, yogurt-based tzatziki sauce, which actually tastes good with everything. I even found myself dipping the fries in it.
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The souvlaki, bits of marinated pork on a skewer, had a nice flavor, but the bites we got were pretty fatty, and some could not be salvaged.
We loved the homemade dressing on the Greek salad. Though the tomato slices weren’t quite ripe, the hunk of feta and the wonderful dressing masked that just fine.
We also loved the Kosta burger ($8.29 with a side of fries), which featured the wonderful gyro meat piled on top of a hamburger patty inside a pretzel bun with tomato, onion and tzatziki. The pretzel bun was perfect for the burger, as visually appealing as it was delicious. And that gyro meat is so good, we could have done without the burger patty. In fact, as we tore into the second half of the burger, we pulled it off and set it aside.
We ordered three servings of spanakopita, thinking we needed that much to give each person in our party a taste. But be warned – a serving ($4.59) comes with two large pieces of the spinach pie, so one order easily would feed two. The flavor was fabulous, though I found the flaky fillo dough a bit too buttery – and that’s something you’ll rarely hear me say. The dough left our fingers and lips overly greasy.
Our Greek feast concluded with two of the restaurant’s homemade desserts, which are made by Maria Kiosses. The baklava ($1.95) had an unusual flavor – very cinnamon-y and almost reminiscent of red hots. It’s not the baklava Wichita’s many Lebanese restaurants have trained us to eat. The galaktobouriko ($2.25 for a serving) featured a custardy center baked inside fillo and drowned in sweet syrup. We liked it a little better.
AMBIANCE: Kosta the Greek has a fast-food — not a sit-down — setup. Patrons order at the counter, then wait for their name to be called. The food is served on disposable plates with disposable cutlery. The dining room is no-frills and small but clean and bright. Framed chalkboards that spell out and define Greek words decorate the walls.
PRICE RANGE: Reasonable. Sandwiches with fries and a drink are $6.99. Platters are $8.99 to $9.99. Burgers are $4.79 to $8.29.
SERVICE: Kiosses is in the kitchen with a helper, and he has one person manning the cash register and working the dining room. Though it’s a little congested at the cash register, where people picking up their food bump into people ordering their food, service was fine.