It can only help to open your restaurant in a decaying structure that was once a Taco Bell. First-time customers will have terribly low expectations. And it's easy to exceed them.
I suspect Yia Yia's Roadster Grill, on Bissonnet near Bellaire, has a big following because it continues to excced the expectations engendered by such a lousy location.
For the same reason, I was once a long-time fan of The Last Concert Cafe. The funky, run-down location in the warehouse district surely looked like it was once a bordello. It didn't matter that the Mexican food was average, at best. You feel proud of yourself for finding even average food in such a dingy-looking joint.
Greek food that beats expectations
Yia Yia's Roadster Grill serves a variety of burgers, hot dogs, and Philly Cheese Steak. They also have a handful of Greek dishes -- gyros, souvlaki, Greek salads, and moussaka.
Let's be honest about our city. Houston's Greek food is not very good. There are some decent Greek restaurants with higher quality and more variety, such as Alexander the Great Greek and the overly-commercial-feeling Yia Yia Mary's. But the greek dishes I tried at Yia Yia Roadster are better than similar dishes at other Greek places, like Niko Niko's. And the burgers aren't bad either.
The moussaka is less greasy than some other places (Niko Niko's). The casserole's different layers -- eggplant, bread crumbs, ground meat, bechamel -- are remarkably distinct. The bechamel top is crisped in the oven. In short, it is a very nicely constructed moussaka.
Yet the construction of this dish doesn't quite make up for the fact that the flavor of moussaka is almost always a bit dull.
Recently an acquaintance from Europe explained a theory about immigrant food. When immigrants bring the food of their homeland with them, the food remains frozen at the time of the immigration. Yet in the home country, the local cuisine continues to progress. That may explain why American Italian food is almost all pasta and tomato sauce -- dishes that were popular at the time of mass immigrations from Italy, but have little to do with the best food currently served in Italy.
Although Moussaka looks and sounds exotic, its taste and texture seem a lot like a late 1950's American casserole. These days, Americans don't eat many 50's style casseroles. Which makes me wonder whether modern Greeks eat much moussaka. I keep forgetting that moussaka is not my favorite dish. Still, Yia Yia Roadster's version may be my favorite in town.
Surprising attention to ingredients
I liked the other dishes I tried. Anonymous Child's burger had a nice grill flavor. And her fries were crunchy.
A Greek salad highlighted the good ingredients used in this cheap restaurant. The lettuce was green, cucumbers were fresh and crisp, and feta was deliciously salty. Only the slightly mealy tomatoes were a disappointment -- but then again 95 % of tomatoes are. Compared to the last Greek salad I ate at Niko Niko's, the ingredients here were far superior.
It probably is not worth driving across town to try the Greek food in this popular, run-down Taco Bell building. But if you are near Bellaire, it is a good spot for some decent, cheap Greek food that exceeds expectations.