March brings our annual pilgrimage to Tampa to visit my Dad and his wife, Brenda. After living in Tampa for ten years, these two know their way around the region’s culinary hotspots. Past trips have taken us to Bern’s Steak House and less-well known, but delicious, restaurants, like Red Mesa.
After taking a few years off to try new places, we had dinner on Friday in Tarpon Springs, which is located outside of Tampa and has the highest percentage of Greek-Americans in the U.S (according to wikipedia). Dad and Brenda’s favorite restaurant in Tarpon Springs is Hellas and, judging by the crowds at the restaurant, they aren’t alone.
The enormous Greek salad (a salad for two serves four easily) is the right way to start a meal at Hellas. Buried like a treasure in the middle of vegetables and fresh feta dressed with yummy vinaigrette is a scoop of the tastiest potato salad, which I promise will be among the best potato salad you’ve tried.
There are a number of appealing entrees (I suspect that you can’t go wrong if you stick with Greek specialties), but I was particularly pleased with the basic gryro on our recent visit. I tend to steer away from gyros as the lamb flavor can be too strong, but the thinly-sliced gyro meat at Hellas was excellent and it was accompanied by divine fresh pita (an entirely different beast from the pita pocket that you get at the corner falafel store) and delicious tzatziki sauce.
Every trip to Tarpon Spring should end with a visit to Hellas’ bakery, where little old Greek ladies serve up Greek pastries like baklava and melomakarona (honey-soaked spice cookies). Baklava is an odd dessert for me to like because I don’t like honey and I don’t like exceedingly sweet desserts, but like it I do and I haven’t tasted better baklava than Hellas’ version (same goes for the melomakarona, but I haven’t eaten these elsewhere!).
My husband declared that Hellas should be a mandatory stop when we visit Tampa, and I recommend that if you find yourself in the area, you heed his advice.