Kids, adults can party Greek style

 

Finding a truly family-friendly restaurant that works for tots as well as grandparents can be a dilemma, especially if you’re not used to dining out with little ones.

BY ROCHELLE KOFF |  rkoff@MiamiHerald.com

Finding a truly family-friendly restaurant that works for tots as well as grandparents can be a dilemma, especially if you’re not used to dining out with little ones.

Let’s just say it’s been years since our kids were in diapers, so we sought help finding an accommodating spot for kids ranging from 2 to 10. A savvy mom recommended her family favorite, My Big Fat Greek Restaurant in Dania Beach.

It offers an affordable kids’ menu, high chairs and booster seats plus very good, authentic dishes and fun entertainment on weekends. The setting is casual with a homespun charm — decorated in royal blue and white with lacy curtains, colorful murals and a small bar.

Our crew had a blast, from the 2-year-old who was mesmerized by Luna the belly dancer to the grandparents who savored juicy lamb chops and char-grilled octopus.

If you want a lively dinner, stop by Friday or Saturday when there’s live bouzouki music and two 15-minute entertainment interludes. A few servers (who recently won the American Greek Dance competition) kick up their heels (though don’t expect Taverna Opa-style partying), and then the talented Luna gyrates her way around the dining room.

Owners Aphrodite Torrealba and Sarantis Boutsikos (also the chef) opened the place five years ago. They say the name was picked before My Big Fat Greek Wedding was released, though the place could be a stand-in for the fictional Dancing Zorba’s in the movie.

Start your feast with a complimentary hummus (thin but creamy) served with bread (pay $1 for pita), but don’t fill up — My Big Fat Greek Restaurant offers an extensive selection of traditional meze or small plates.

With too many tempting choices, we shared an appetizer combo, which easily feeds four. The platter includes char-grilled keftedes (like Greek burgers with a spicy kick), gyro slices (a flavorful mix of lamb and beef), loukaniko (imported Greek sausage), a wedge of flaky spanakopita (spinach pie) and grilled chicken wings.

We also wanted the drama of flambé, so when our exceptional server set the kefalograviera (hard, slightly salty sheep’s cheese) afire, the kids cheered. No more mention of Chuck E Cheese for the night.

The authentic horiatiki salad is made sans lettuce, but the Greek salad served with a gyro platter does include romaine (plus lots of feta and tomatoes) tossed in a typical perky dressing. To finish out the plate: Lemony potato wedges and a stuffed grape leaf, a generous dish for $12.

On one visit the shrimp in a kebab was a little chewy, but on a second visit it was perfectly cooked in an entree of shrimp santorini with lots of garlic, onions, peppers, feta and rice in a light, fragrant tomato sauce.

Other hits were the succulent char-broiled lamb chops, homey roasted chicken, a special of pan-fried grouper (though watch out for a few bones) and a side of peas with tomatoes, carrots and a touch of dill.

There’s a dusting of cinnamon on the slow-cooked rice pudding, perhaps the ultimate Greek comfort food. The house-made baklava is incredibly good, with a light, tall phyllo crust and the traditional filling of chopped nuts and honey.

Another treat — the delightful service. Everyone was warm and welcoming. Our friendly waiter helped make our dinner such a memorable experience that we rented My Big Fat Greek Wedding on the way home. A new vocabulary word for the kids: Opa!

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