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Friday, October 11, 2013
Lawrence (KS): The Mad Greek ... Good Greek Cuisine, Moderate Prices
If you like arsenic poisoning, you will love the Mad Greek in downtown Lawrence! Seriously, this restaurant is actually pretty good and reasonably priced. The reason I made that comment is because they seem to serve rice and green beans with EVERY dish and rice has been linked to high arsenic content with recommendations, according to OneGreenPlanet.org and others, tolimit rice consumption to once a week among other precautions.
Greek "Side" Salad
On our first visit to The Mad Greek, my wife ordered the spinach pie ($7.99), spinach and feta cheese with herbs baked in a light phyllo dough with tzatziki (a creamy cucumber sauce used extensively in Grecian cooking) and fresh pita bread. The spinach pies were light and flaky with a perfect ratio of filling to crust. For the price, I would think a salad would be included, but you must pay $1.99 to add a Greek salad ($1.59 for "house" salad) to any entrée. My wife and I both ordered a Greek salad with our meals and at $1.99 extra, not a bad deal considering the quality. Fresh romaine lettuce, tomato, Greek Calamata olives, and crumbled feta cheese in a Greek olive oil and vinegar dressing. I would prefer chunks of feta over the fine crumbles, but the taste is the same either way…very good.
Moussaka with Pita Bread and Fries
I ordered the gyros platter, a reasonable ($9.99 - not abundant) amount of sliced gyro meat (a combination of seasoned beef and lamb), pita bread, tzatziki, green beans, and rice (of course). The gyro meat was fresh and tasty, and the tzatziki delicious, but the pita bread was a little too soft for my taste. The green beans were simmered in a tomato sauce and were "OK" and the rice was similarly boring, but I am not a huge rice lover. I ordered a side of french fries ($2.99), which were hot and crunchy just the way I like them, but I will probably ask to substitute fries for the rice and green beans on our next visit.
On our second visit it was my wife's birthday, so I ordered the "flaming" saganaki, a slab of fresh Greek goat cheese soaked in batter, deep fried, and served in a flaming extravaganza table side. The "oohs" and "aahs" of fellow customers followed the lighting of the cheese, but at $7.99 the dish was overpriced by AT LEAST $2.00 in my opinion, coming with one slice of pita bread (cut into six pieces). The birthday girl ordered the moussaka, one of her staples (along with Greek salad) during our month-long visit to Greece in 2005. The moussaka - eggplant, ground beef and other ingredients covered with a béchamel sauce and baked - looked as though it had been sitting for a while and the serving was small, a cube no more than two and a half inches in diameter and at $9.99, about one quarter of the size of servings we received in Greece. The moussaka came with pita bread, rice and green beans, so my wife substituted french fries at no additional charge. She did not like it and I thought it was very "average", being overpriced for the serving size.
I decided to try one of the Italian offerings, so I ordered the cannelloni Florentine, pasta tubes stuffed with veal, spinach and seasonings then baked after being covered with alfredo (white) and red sauce. The cannelloni was actually pretty good, but the sauces were both rather boring, most likely coming from a can or jar, not homemade. Again, we had to pay $1.99 each to add a Greek salad and mine came with two small pieces of garlic bread ($9.99 for pasta and bread, $11.98 including the salad, not bad, but NOT A GREAT VALUE).
Wine is reasonable at $3.50 per glass for the house wine, a tasty, inexpensive burgundy that went well with both meals. They have a full bar and prices seem fairly reasonable with a decent selection of drafts at $3.99 to $4.59 (stout). Water is served wit a lemon slice, but I had to ask for refills, something that should not have happened considering the small number of customers that night.
The Mad Greek has original Greek recipes and decent food, but the value for the price is questionable. Ordering "ala carte" should be reserved for restaurants with cloth napkins and severs who take your payment rather than making customers stand in line to pay our bills (as is the case at The Mad Greek). I would recommend including a Greek salad with entrees and maybe increasing the price by fifty cents to a dollar to offset the cost and having servers handle payments as is done in even the cheapest sit-down restaurants these days. People should feel as if they are receiving a "good value" for their money and NOT feel like we are eating at McDonalds after having spent $25 each for dinner.
CombatCritic gives The Mad Greek 6 Bombs Out of 10 ... Bombs Are Good!