Every town has a handful of sketchy restaurants. Often it's the joints that look the most questionable that hold the secrets of culinary enlightenment. Then again, they might hold nothing more than a one-way ticket to whatever you stuffed down your gob firing back out from both ends. It's the most adventurous of eaters who are willing to risk back alley slop houses and decaying lunch counters to find out if the scariest of local eateries lead to Heaven or Hell.
Last time, Shannon Armour survived the outwardly (and inwardly) sketchy Ocean Buffet. This week, she dares fellow Chow Bella contributor Amanda Kehrberg to brave the strange citadel that is Mesa's Posidon Greek Restaurant & Market.
Posidon Greek Restaurant & Market is located in the section of Mesa outside the bubble of the revitalized arts and culture district, where antique stores become thrift stores (there's a giant one right across the street), hotels become motels (there's one attached), and thriving car lots become abandoned car lots. It's a part of Mesa that seems to exist without zoning laws, those wacky rules that might have prevented a large Greek restaurant from squishing itself between a Clarion Inn and a trailer park.
Location is probably a big part of how Posidon has developed a reputation for looking sketchy, but there's also the fact that it seems unnecessarily huge. And it advertises really cheap pizza. And it's named after a Greek god, but with a different spelling than the one you learned in middle school. So it was with no real expectations that I stopped in on a Sunday afternoon, after turning right on Main Street, by the McDonald's that's so old it uses a weird font on its sign.
Sickly sweet Baklava, more fluffy Pita, and a bizarre Greek tourism poster after the jump.
Inside, the menu is no less small - nor focused - than the exterior. In fact, Posidon has the kind of giant menu that gets Chef Gordon Ramsay's knickers in a twist: There are all the Greek delicacies you would expect, plus sports-bar fare like buffalo wings and mozzarella sticks, plus create-your-own and specialty pizzas.
This wide menu probably speaks to the odd location, snuggled up against the aging hotel. It is part traditional Greek, part whatever-the-hotel-guests-might-want. Sometimes the two collide, as in the day's dessert special: Baklava Cheesecake.
I chose to order exclusively Greek (when in Athens, right?), starting with the Vegetarian Appetizer Combo ($8.95). The platter arrived soon after - we were the only customers at lunchtime on Sunday - filled to the brim with all my favorite Greek foods: Spanakopita, Dolmades, Hummus, and Pita.
The Spanakopita had a delicate, flaky, pastry crust, but the contents tasted - and I hate to sound like a grumpy four-year-old - too much like spinach, an ingredient usually more pleasingly masked. The Hummus was so bland that the temperature became the only flavor to notice: cold. But the Dolmades (stuffed grape leaves), were deliciously flavorful - and the Pita was a wonderful, fluffy and rich consistency (though it could do without the salt).
The Pita used for the Chicken Souvlaki sandwich ($6.25) was even more fluffy, but the wrap had been drowned in sauce. A rescue attempt unearthed big chunks of grilled, white-meat chicken, lightly flavored but very good. The fries on the side (I know, I could've had oven-roasted potatoes or a Greek salad) were again excellent in consistency but not quite crave-able in flavor. As I was snacking on the fries, I watched out the large front windows as a man walked by carrying a sack of potatoes. Just a sack of potatoes, nothing else.
I finished with the traditional pistachio Baklava ($1.75, it and its cheesecake spinoff were the only available desserts of the eight listed on the menu). Its extreme sweetness kicks you in the teeth at first until you get used it, and then it's all chewy goodness. Not a bad Baklava, but here the crust could be a bit thicker.
One thing Posidon does extremely well is presentation: The restaurant is bright and clean, dressed in blue-and-white-checkered tablecloths (the colors of the Greek flag). On the walls are Greek tourism posters, and there is a full bar and flat-screen TVs playing Sunday afternoon football.
Online reviews tend to vary wildly between one star and four or five (or, as Tyra Banks tells her All-Stars, "It's something called polarity.") so I had high hopes that this was a diamond-in-the-rough kind of place, failing only to charm the less adventurous. Unfortunately, the only real daring part is the trek past the decaying remains of a Bennigan's and the empty auto lots. What Posidon offers is decent Greek food and a great, clean place to relax for the next-door hotel guests, a place even to order buffalo wings while you watch the game. From my experience, its real value lies somewhere in the average of all those highs and lows.
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