Elia Authentic Greek Taverna is a new restaurant located on the west side of Las Vegas, just south of the intersection of Flamingo and Durango.
This location has been quite a tough sell for restaurauteurs and local foodies who fancy trying out new and creative ethnic cuisine. Previously, the sun-bleached strip-mall storefront has been the culinary graveyard of an upscale seafood eatery (closed in 2008) followed by Gino’s Italian Bistro (which closed last year). For those keeping score, that’s 0-for-2 — even though both prior places were well above-average restaurants that I enjoyed frequently (though apparently not frequently enough).
Elia likely stands a much better chance for success based on a number of reasons. First, the local economy is far better now, than a decade ago. Many popular upscale eateries in Las Vegas shuttered their doors following the economic crash of ’08, which now seems like a distant memory with all the mess going on right now. The surrounding area has changed also, with the most notable new neighbor being Mint Indian Bistro, which moved in directly behind Elia’s. Using the magnet marketing theory, the very best thing that can happen to restaurant struggling to create a steady clientele is having another creative dining force located right next door.
More belaboring a proven point, if I may. This area has been utterly flooded by Mediterranean restaurants over the last decade, at least in proportion to the local population, many who probably don’t know the difference between a falafel and kibbeh. Directly across the street, a nice Persian restaurant closed-down just three months ago. Half a mile to the north is Zaytoon, my favorite Iranian market-bistro here on the West Side. Even Putter’s Bar and Grill, a popular neighborhood pub about 200 feet away serves up tasty Lebanese food. Yeah, I know — Greek food isn’t the same as Lebanese or Persian food, but many Americans likely won’t see much of a difference in the basic ingredients. This is what makes Elia’s challenge all the more intriguing.
Elia is small, about what one might expect if vacationing on the islands of Kos or Crete. White tablecloths, perfectly manicured tabletops, and a sparkling clean interior are most welcoming. So was the house music, played at the perfect decibel level, which are mostly mandolin-heavy Greek instrumentals — a perfect background for table conversation. Even more welcoming is the friendly ownership and staff, which greets customers instantly. From the moment we walk in the front door, we are made to feel like their house guests.
What may be the best price-fixed menu in Las Vegas is available until 3 pm daily at Elia, and this made for an easy choice among lots of temptations to choose from. For $15, a three-course meal with various options is available. The courses include an appetizer or salad, a main course with potatoes, and a dessert. All for 15 bucks. That’s quite a bargain.
This might seem like a small thing, but it’s really a big thing. It often foretells of the experience to come, and that’s the bread. Many restaurants opt to go cheap in the bread, serving stale unimaginative dinner rolls or slices of white bread that are little more than caloric time-buyers intended to stave off customers until the main course arrives. Not Elia. Their bread was oven fresh, as good as any European bakery in the city. Pipping hot, laced with flour, crispy, and accompanied by an above-average ramekin of Greek olive oil. This was a very good sign.
Then, the first of three courses was served. We began with Keftedakia, which is essentially Greek meatballs (borrowing from the Turkish Kofta). Four were served on a platter with mint, onion, and parsley. I could have enjoyed this as a main course — yes, it was that satisfying. My three-course meal also included a marvelous Greek salad, though not of the standard creation one is typically used to at many Greek-American restaurants. Mine was made of immaculately chopped rocket lettuce, topped with a perfect seasoning of olive oil, zesty lemon, and mint, accompanied by a delicious block of feta cheese and black olives. Yummy.
The main course (e.g. the second course) was also satisfying, but not quite up to the glorious standards of both value and quality set forth in the appetizer (and finished with the dessert). I enjoyed my home-made gyro sandwich, which is pretty standard at all Greek establishments. To their credit, the meat wasn’t nearly as salty as I’ve tasted elsewhere. The yogurt sauce wrapped in the pita was delicious. Elia also serves fresh, hand-cut fries (not frozen) on the side, which merits applause. Again, this is a very minor critique, and can certainly be overcome by ordering one of many other Greek dishes available at lunch and dinner ( must return and try multiple items — perhaps worthy of a follow up report). If the bread and appetizer scored a 10, the main dish would scale an 8. As for the next course, I would give it an “11.”
Dessert was fabulous. I wolfed down my rice pudding, served in a cold cup, topped off with a generous dazzle of reddish cinnamon. Marieta enjoyed her fresh yogurt topped with a coulis of three fresh berries — raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries. The rich creamy yogurt, which I’m not typically a fan of, was stunningly delicious. We fought over the last few bites. The tart topping of berries was as zestfully delightful as any five-star restaurant. I would call this simple, yet delicate Greek closer absolute perfection.
Our two three-course meals, with a drink and tip all came to $42 — a steal. Dinner prices are equally competitive, but are assuredly an even better value given all the alternative mediocre food served elsewhere by run of the mill chains which charge considerably higher prices and then cut on the quality. Give this place a try. Skip the stale old Applebee’s or abomination of Friday’s for a night, and live a little. You’ll be glad you did.
Elia receives my highest possible restaurant rating based on fast and friendly service, a comfortable atmosphere, authenticity, quality, and more than enough menu choices to keep me (and hopefully many readers) returning for more.