I go every year and leave reeking of Greek food. The St. Nicholas Greek Festival is one of my favorite festivals. It should be on your list, too. If anyone knows how to throw a big Greek feast, it’s the parish members and volunteers at the St. Nicholas Orthodox Church in Tacoma. Church volunteers have put on the food festival for 50 years, introducing countless Tacomans to baklava, gyros, melomakarona, koulorakia, dolmades and plenty of other Greek dishes and pastries that many may find unpronounceable, but utterly delicious.
All the food? Homemade by an army of volunteers. Beginning in August, church volunteers begin making dough and stuffing grape leaves. The food has the distinctive taste of homemade.
GUIDE TO EATING GREEK
Here are the items sampled last year in the dining tent (all prices listed are the same this year):
Gyros ($5): Slices of ground, pressed meat, heavy on the seasoning, nestled in warm pita bread with sliced tomatoes and onions, and drizzled with a tart tzatziki yogurt sauce.
Greek fries ($3): Crispy fries dusted with a dose of dried herbs and feta cheese.
Souvlaki ($4): A skewer of marinated and grilled pork chunks served atop two pieces of toasted garlic bread rounds.
Dolmades ($2): Also one of the best bargains, these stuffed grape leaves are generously filled with ground beef and savory, spiced rice. Served at the kitchen window.
Tiropites cheese pies ($2): Buttery, flaky layers of phyllo dough filled with feta, then baked. Like the dolmades, the tiropites can be picked up at the kitchen window, not the tent.
Pastries ($1-$3 each): Galaktoboureko, a creamy farina custard baked between layers of phyllo and topped with a sugary syrup. The kataifi ek mek was a funky looking dessert with layers of shredded phyllo topped with a creamy yellow pudding, chopped pistachios and cherries.
Greek coffee ($2): Guaranteed to put hair on your chest. It’s a strong, sweetened coffee with an aromatic finish. Be careful not to sip and tip your paper cup. The dregs in the bottom pool into a chalky mass. Let it sit and settle for a few minutes.
THREE WAYS TO DINE
Sit-down dinner: A full meal for a fixed price. Chicken or fish (until it runs out) served Friday and Saturday. Lamb or chicken served Sunday. Dinners include salata (Greek salad), fassolia yahni (braised string beans), rice pilaf, bread and coffee or tea. Prices are $12 for fish or chicken dinner, $14 for lamb dinner.
Dining tent: Food booths offering tastes, including gyros, calamari, souvlaki, Greek fries, pastries, Greek coffee, beverages and a deli selling take-home foods. Exchange cash for tokens and use those to buy at the booths. Leftover tokens can be converted back to cash.
Kitchen window: Dolmades and tyropitakia served at a window in the kitchen.
Upstairs: Trays of baklava and pastry combo packs can be taken home to eat.
Where: St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, 1523 S. Yakima Ave., Tacoma
When: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday and 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Sunday
Tickets: Free admission. Food costs range from $1 for a la carte items to $12-$14 for complete dinners.
Contact: 253-272-0466 , stnicholastacoma.org
Payment: Cash or credit card