Chef Zorba’s Cuisine

I don't like Sundays. You always feel like crap on Sunday and are most likely regretting something from the previous night. Or regretting that you have nothing to regret.

In high school, we used to congregate at five o'clock mass to collect church bulletins and prove that we had cleansed our souls. It was the ultimate in Catholic guilt-fests; we called it the "Hangover Mass." At the Air Force Academy, opportunities to feel guilt were infrequent and tempered by the fear of putting a toe across the line in the wrong place or time. And as we drove back through the gate on Sunday, all we could think of was how much work we weren't going to do that night; we typically extended our altered reality by watching movies and commiserating.

As busy "adults" and representatives of the Institute for Drinking Studies, we've changed all that. We don't often go big and almost never late -- but Sundays are sometimes the only days when we can engage in impromptu trouble. After we've done our Home Depot projects, that is.

One recent Sunday, we ventured out to Chef Zorba's Cuisine (2626 East 12th Avenue), because after a week of partying in San Diego, a bellyful of Greek food and wine seemed like the fastest way to re-enter the human race. I've had a long love affair with the gyro -- also pronounced "yiro," "jyro" and "fajita" -- although I waited until college to try it. Where I grew up in Minnesota, Greek restaurateurs owned the best steakhouse in town, wisely having recognized that the denizens of exceptionally white, in-bred Rochester would never eat real Greek food. But there was plenty of Greek food in Madison, Wisconsin, and I fell in love with lamb at a small restaurant on State Street. Then, in Houston, I discovered the Greek equivalent of Taco Bell at Niko Niko. This joint had the best gyros, spiced fries and tzatziki (pronounced: "ranch") sauce, which all proved the perfect cure after a long Saturday night.

Although I love Greek food, I'm pretty much a novice at anything other than gyros. Our incredibly great waitress steered us in the right direction by recommending the flaming cheese dish as an appetizer; it was as good as your best Wisconsin fried cheese curds. And it went well with the Rapsani, a red wine also recommended by our waitress. Even for your non-sniffer kind of guy, this was very good (though the Texan did take a big snort before drinking).

I may be a novice, but my wife had never had any Greek food before. Unfortunately, I can't mind my tongue -- and she hits really hard. When she asked for extra olives with her salad, I told her that Zorba's didn't have olives -- the equivalent of an Italian restaurant not having garlic. She hit me for that, and then hit me again after I suggested that she try the bearded clams. "Where are those?" she asked, then got her answer from the raucous laughter that erupted around the table. In the nick of time, our waitress again stepped in and helped us pick out entrees that would have been excellent even without yet another bottle of wine.

We had a great time at Zorba's. We owe that mostly to our waitress, partly to the wine, and not at all to the ouzo, which we ordered for dessert. Ouzo originated on the island of Lesbos -- which you'd think would make it really cool -- but it's really just high-grade ethyl alcohol that would make you go blind if it weren't cut with something that smells like black licorice. Never again on Sunday.

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Patrick Osborn