My experience with Greek culture limited to the book Zorba the Greek. Based on this, my vision of a Greek dining experience involves shots of Ouzo and plates being smashed while people dance around.
My hopes were a bit dashed when I pulled up to Mazzah on a Monday afternoon. The plates are made of Styrofoam—putting the kibosh on any massive fine-china shattering. But don't let the Styrofoam or "restaurant-in-a-strip-mall" look fool you. Mazzah serves up great food at a moderate price with efficiency and a smile.
"And what can I get for you?" asked the chipper hostesss behind the counter. Thinking I should get something fancy, I scanned the menu on the wall for something exotic. There are a lot of offerings: dolmas, shawarmas, kabobs, cool words like tzatziki and tabbouli.
"I'll have a gyro," I answered sheepishly, opting for the lunch special: a gyro, a side, and a drink for around seven bucks.
To go with my gyro, the hostess recommended the basmati rice—saying that it went well with a side of tzatziki (a cucumber, yogurt and dill concoction). "Sounds good," I replied.
The food showed up in no time. The gyro is the standard mélange of lamb, tomatoes, lettuce, onions, and tzaziki—served on pita bread and wrapped in foil.
The meat is thinly sliced and savory, the lettuce crunchy and green, the tomatoes are fresh and the pita bread is warm and squishy. Whoever invented the gyro deserves an award—it's a simple lesson in flavor and texture.
I took a bite of Mazzah's version of the Greek standard, wondering if it's named for the gyroscope-like contraption off which the meat is sliced. My only quip—which isn't really a complaint at all—is the abundance of lamb meat. It makes the sandwich a bit hard to control. I set the gyro back down and began forking up pieces of the meat, dipping them in the side of tzatziki for a little extra oomph. Not the best manners, but whatever, I was eating alone. With my gyro down to a more manageable size, I started in on the rice. The basmati is fluffy white without a hint of stickiness. It's a little plain though—even with the tzatziki sauce. To spice it up, I asked for some hot sauce. Expecting a bottle of something like Cholula I was intrigued when, seconds later, I was handed a cup of a thick, red sauce.
"We make it. It's really good," she smiled.
And hot. The sauce has the endorphin-releasing flavor of Sriracha. In moderation, it's a great addition to the rice (and the gyro).
I finished off my gyro with satisfaction and briefly considered getting some baklava. "Next time," I thought, as I did my best to throw my plate in the garbage—a little celebration to my satisfying lunch. I knew I'd be back.
—Ryan Peck only read the Cliff's Notes to Zorba the Greek.