So Joy took me out to dinner last night, and it was fun. We went to the Souvlaki House, a Greek/Italian place in Collegetown I've really enjoyed whenever I went but haven't been to in a couple years. While I was there, my alter Ego -- let's call him Anton, shall we? -- reminded me that I've always wanted to just write into a newspaper with a few gratuitous restaurant reviews. Well, I can do that here, can't I? So here are two short reviews, and hopefully later Joy and I will sit down and compare Chinese places around here.
I love The Souvlaki House. I discovered it my first year at Cornell just wandering about. They have a large tray of baklava on the counter, and they let me take a menu home the first time I visited so I could give it a good look over. I confess I haven't tried any of the standard Italian fare there, focusing instead on the Greek food, which I have always loved. I was leery about the eggplant parmigiana, but tried it anyway to be adventurous and loved it. It startled me. I've had their lamb Souvlaki and their Gyros, and this last time I had the Moussaka, which is a ground beef meatloaf with eggplant and Greek spices and potatoes. Greek shepherd's pie, maybe. It was heavenly. I'm about to go on a web search for a good recipe for it. I've never been a big fan of the feta cheese in their salads, but those and the sour olives are just part of the experience. The breadsticks are very good too.
The other place to bring to your attention is the Manos Diner along 13-S out of town. Now, there's a story. Back at BYU, I was introduced to what Mystery Science Theater 3000 calls the WORST movie ever made: Manos, the Hands of Fate. It's terrible. It's awful. It's very funny how they handled it. Quentin Tarantino calls it one of his favorite comedies. Torgo, pictured right, is the henchmen. "My name is ... Torgo. I ... take care of the place ... while the Master is away." I bought it for myself one year, I love/hated it so much. So when I saw there was a Manos Diner, I just had to go. The look Joy gave me when I told her I wanted to go to a restaurant because of the worst movie ever made was classic, and I'm sure most guys know the look I'm talking about. (PS - The restaurant has no relation to the movie. It was built by a guy whose last name is Manos. But I can see Anton over there is sharpening his talons, so best get back to the review:)
The polite term for the Manos Diner is a greasy spoon. The correct term is a dive. It is a dive for two reasons. The first is that the bright red plastic bench coverings are held together by packing tape. Now, a low-class establishment would have used duct tape, but Manos uses packing tape, so it's a high-class dive. The other reason it's a dive is that you can dive in and swim around in the sauces they put on your sides. My side salad could tread watery vaguely-white salad dressing for five minutes, all without acquiring any flavor! The marinara sauce on my pasta not only demonstrated a shocking disregard for cornstarch, or even tomatoes, but dripped off the sodden noodles like so much B-movie fake blood.
So why do I recommend you go anyway? Why have we gone back multiple times? 1) They have the world's greatest beef in au jus, as testated and tastetested by the Lovely and Gracious. In fact, we've taken to asking them for a styrofoam coffee cup and lid so we can bring the leftover sauce home. I guess since their specialite de la maison is watery sauces, it makes sense that one that's supposed to be would be perfect. 2) It's nearly impossible to get a decent burger in Ithaca outside of Friendly's, and they do good burgers and other very nice, well seasoned (if a touch lukewarm) entrees. They even profess to do a cordon blue I haven't had the gumption to sample yet. So when you go, stick to the french fries and you'll be fine. The fries are safe.