Lines? What lines?
It didn’t seem to matter how many people poured into the dining tent Friday afternoon at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church – an army of volunteers was ready and armed with gyros, souvlaki and baklava. The lines were no match.
Friday was the first of the three-day St. Nicholas Greek Festival, now in its 51st year. The menu of Greek specialties is prepared by parishioners who cook like they would at home – using copious amounts of garlic, lemon and oregano. You’ll definitely want to pack breath mints.
While the event is revered as an eating festival – you can smell the dining tent three blocks away – it’s also an open house for the church. Two years ago, an elaborate iconography project was completed with murals painted onto the church’s dome. Guided tours will be given all weekend. Also, dancers from the church will perform every few hours.
To give an idea of the scale of what it takes to prepare the food, consider these numbers from past festivals.
Church volunteers used more than 200 pounds of clarified butter just for the cookies. About 5,000 dolmathes were hand rolled by church members. They served more than 7,500 kourabiethes, butter cookies topped with powdered sugar. Thousands will dine at this weekend’s festival. A portion of proceeds will go to the Boys & Girls Club.
Separating this festival as a foodie’s paradise is that there are multiple dining options.
Downstairs in the church dining hall, a sit-down dinner is served with continuous seatings into the evening. Diners can choose from chicken or fish ($12) today or lamb Sunday ($14). Dinners include salata (Greek salad), fasolia yahni (braised string beans), rice pilaf, bread and coffee or tea.
In an enormous weatherproof dining tent set up just behind the church, there’s a dining hall built for large-scale grazing with a la carte booths selling gyros, souvlaki, Greek fries, calamari, salad and more, priced at $1 to $6 each. Long rows of tables offer communal seating. Diners can buy tokens to buy from the booths.
Also in the dining tent is a bakery case with the most recognized Greek pastry – baklava – as well as pastries with names difficult to pronounce. There’s katifi, the rolled up baklava; koulourakia, a very crisp cookie twisted into a braid; melomakarona, a honey-soaked cookie covered in walnuts and paximathia, something like Greek biscotti.
A handy tip came from a parishioner selling raffle tickets Friday: “Don’t wait until Sunday to buy your baklava. It will be gone by then.”
51ST ANNUAL GREEK FESTIVAL
Where: St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, 1523 S. Yakima Ave., Tacoma.
When: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. today and 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Sunday.
Tickets: Free admission. Food prices range from $1 for a la carte items to $12 to $14 for complete dinners.
Payment: Cash, cards or checks.
Contact: 253-272-0466 or stnicholastacoma.org.
Tours: Tours of the church will be given by the Rev. Seraphim Majmudar. In 2010, the church completed its iconography project, in which elaborate murals were painted on the church’s dome.
Dancing: Church dancers perform every few hours.
Supporting: A portion of proceeds will go to the Boys & Girls Club.
Sue Kidd: 253-597-8270