Even though Greece and the United States are in the midst of economic woes, Costas Opa Greek Restaurant does not seem to be experiencing either country's hardship. The place is a massive two-story restaurant that strays from the predictable blue-and-white color scheme, opting for warm woods and a Jackson Pollock arrangement of paintings, vases, and musical instruments. Most noticeable perhaps, is the mural on the eastern wall of Zeus, Athena, Apollo, and Poseidon.
The owner and head chef, Costas Antonopoulos, opened the restaurant on the corner of Fremont Avenue in 1981. Born in the southern region of Greece in the Peloponnese, Antonopoulos learned the basics of authentic Greek cooking from his grandmother at the age of 16. Now in its 30th year, Costas Opa has surpassed the elusive quarter-century mark.Although noticeably missing is light. A testament to the darkness of the restaurant is that when I whipped out my phone to see exactly what I was eating, the mythic gods stared down at the 21st-century mortal inspecting her food by the screen of her Droid phone. It turned out to be the vegetarian combination plate, which I ordered because it promised the greatest variety of food ($14). The moussaka's bechamel sauce with cheese was, by far, the winner: It held its rectangular shape on top of the layered vegetables perfectly while still yielding like soft butter when punctured with a fork.
The spanakopita, a Greek staple with a myriad of regional variations, stayed true to tradition with a mixture of feta and spinach, wrapped in fillo pastry and baked to a crisp. The baklava was bathed in honey (just as it should be) with thin layers of fillo pastry, walnuts, and more honey ($4.75).
If six months in Greece taught me anything about the country's cuisine, it's that you always need to have a hearty basket of bread or pita to nibble on before dinner, to eat with dinner, and to soak up the sauce at the end of dinner. Unfortunately, pita costs a hefty $1.95 per piece at Costas Opa.
Despite the economic woes, Greek food is synonymous with having friends and family around. So grab a friend (and a lantern) to sample Greek cuisine halfway around the world, in the city of Seattle, on the corner of Fremont Avenue, at a table in Costas Opa Greek Restaurant.
Costas Opa Greek Restaurant, 3400 Fremont Ave. N., 633-4141, costasopa.com, FREMONT