I drove by the Giggling Greek a month or so ago and noticed the downtown Puyallup restaurant was closed on a night when they should have been open. There was a note tacked on the window saying there had been an emergency.
I drove by again, during the December storms –closed again. The streets were crummy, so that explained it. Another drive by after the ice mostly cleared, but they were closed again.
I dropped in again last week and found them open – and surprised at a new, lower-priced menu and a scaled-back Greek approach. Tacos, steak and meatloaf are daily specials. Probably half the menu is still Greek, but items like burgers and nachos also now are offered.
"We actually never closed…it just may have seemed like we were closed," said manager Kristi Haroldsen by phone yesterday. She said the staff had a difficult time making it to work, especially during the storms. They opted to close, even when roads here seemed to improve, because they had staffers traveling from areas where the roads were more treacherous.
The menu revamp was coincidental with the unplanned closures. Giggling Greek's owner Dean Lucas has worried about declining business since the economy took a dive, so Lucas, Haroldsen and the staff at Giggling Greek spent some time retooling the menu of the small restaurant that opened on Meridian in July 2007. Haroldsen said the staff poured over old receipts and found the majority of the tickets had orders for gyros. So in the spirit of sticking with what works, gyros now anchor the menu.
Last Monday, the Giggling Greek opened with the new menu – and new hours. They're open daily now. They've reduced nearly all prices on the menu to a recession friendly $7.95. Gone is moussaka at $18.95 and rack of lamb for $27.
Customers were just not ordering the more expensive traditional Greek items. "We were finding those expensive items were getting thrown out, it was a lose-lose situation," said Haroldsen.
I've noticed lower menu prices at other local restaurants. Taqueria El Rinconsito on Pacific lowered their menu prices (not significantly, but a noticeable dip of about 50 cents or more for some menu items); and I noticed that Taqueria El Antojo recently did the same. Chain restaurants like Subway and Quizno's are running television commercials announcing lower prices. I wonder if other restaurant are planning to, or already have, lowered their menu prices to attract more customers concerned with scaling back their dining dollars?
Will reducing prices work for the Giggling Greek? Haroldsen hopes so. "Some people have been surprised and supportive. … It will take some people to get used to. … People are looking for a good meal for not a lot of money."
I thought the prices looked to be a very good value. I don't know about skewing a menu into pizza, meatloaf and tacos at a restaurant that seems like it could carve a great niche focusing on a scaled-down Greek style street food (sort of like an It's Greek to Me concept), sans the burgers and meatloaf. But in this economy, restaurants like Giggling Greek have to try what they think best to improve the bottom line, or, in some cases, simply survive.
A few menu items sampled last week:
Gyros ($7.95): Tender slices of garlic-scented lamb piled on a grill-warmed pita with yogurt-cucumber tzatziki sauce, tomatoes and lettuce. Delicious. I would definitely come back for these – again and again and again. My only complaint was that the gyros meat could have been a little hotter. Comes with fries on the side.
Calamari ($7.95): A large pile of calamari rings that are battered and deep fried. The preparation is different from other Greek restaurants that bread their calamari and quickly sauté or lightly fry the calamari rings, but these were delicious in their own guilty-pleasure-battered-and-fried way. Skip the marinara sauce as an accompaniment and instead ask your server if you can get tzatziki or hummus for dipping.
Hummus ($7.95): A small dish of the creamy chickpea dip was nicely bright with lemon, but really lacked that dose of garlic that makes hummus so flavorful. I also wanted a bit of nutty sesame tahini flavor in the dip (I couldn't detect much, if any). The pita on the side should have been grilled more like the pita that came with the gyros.
A sampling of what they offer on their newly revamped menu:
Greek appetizers (all $7.95): Tzatziki dip, hummus, spanikopita (spinach and cheese wrapped in filo pastry and baked), dolmathes (rice stuffed grape leaves), Greek fries (with feta and oregano).
Non-Greek appetizers (all $7.95): Cheese fries (with nacho cheese sauce), spinach and artichoke dip, mozzarella sticks, fried zucchini, chicken tenders, hot wings and nachos.
Greek main dishes (all $7.95): Gyros, Greek burger and tilapia fish over orzo with a lemon-fig sauce (this is what I would try on a follow-up visit).
Non-Greek main dishes (all $7.95): Burger dip, Maui Waui burger, Swiss mushroom burger, chicken pesto burger, fish and chips, meatball sandwiches (all come with fries).
Daily specials: Meatloaf Monday ($6), Taco Tuesdays ($2.50), Steak Wednesday ($9.99), Burger Thursday ($5), Pizza Friday ($5) and Gyro Saturday ($5).
Giggling Greek Restaurant
109 S Meridian, Puyallup; 253-604-4103