Nicko! Don't play with food! When I was your age, I didn't have food!
-Maria Portokalos, My Big Fat Greek Wedding
"So you wanta salad?" says John, the imposing Greek waiter at the restaurant labeled outside as "Bibas" and "One's a Meal" and "Greek Village" (I call it Bibas). John's question really is not a question, but a statement. John knows me. John knows all his customers. He knows what they want better than they do. He does not bother to bring a menu. He decides what his customers are going to have.
Bibas -- a 24-hour Greek diner on West Gray -- serves a killer Greek pizza and an even better Greek calzone with feta and tomatoes. John, though, knows that I really want a Greek salad with gyro meat added. Salads too often are boring, healthy affairs with too much vinegar and too little personality. Not this one. It has good quality, green-colored greens, a pungent and creamy Greek dressing, lots of feta, onions, tomatoes, cucumbers, kalamata olives (with pits) , and an enormous pile of the best gyro meat in Houston.
I have tried other Greek salads, and they do not compare. The Greek salad at Niko Nikos on Montrose has basically the same ingredients, but the execution is not as good. Niko Nikos uses white iceberg lettuce, not the high quality greens they serve at Bibas. Niko Nikos also serves about half the quantity of feta and gyro meat, and the gyro meat is not nearly as good. The gyro meat at Bibas is juicier and more flavorful than the dry crumbs of meat that they toss on the salad at Niko Nikos. Although Niko Nikos gets rave reviews from many loyal customers, the salad and the gyro meat are not nearly as good as at Bibas.
The Greek salad at Yia Yia Mary's also uses awful white iceberg lettuce. It comes with a huge slab of white feta and some large chunks of tomato. Fortunately, the different marinated, grilled meats you can order on top of the lettuce are quite tasty -- so tasty, that they do not belong with the otherwise dull salad. Yia Yia Mary's has the best pita bread in town, as well as the best Greek wine I have found anywhere. Just skip the lousy salad.
The Greek salad at Droubi Bros. on Dallas Street in Downtown is perhaps the worst of all. Of course, they serve the mandatory white iceberg lettuce. The dressing is a runny brown vinaigrette with a heavy emphasis on vinegar. The worst part, however, is the gyro meat. I do not know how any restaurant can make gyro meat this bad. Dry and rubbery, it reminds me less of beef or lamb and more of some cheap soy meat substitute -- like the meat they served in elementary school. (Yum, soy burgers!) Although I have heard that the original Droubi's is quite good, the salad at the Downtown Droubi's is awful.
A Greek salad does not have to be a study in deprivation. It can be a wonderful affair, with good quality greens, delicious Greek dressing, and flavorful gyro meat. Just ask John. He knows what you want.