For many of us unmarried gals, it can be particularly difficult eating alone in public. Now it just so happens that the boyfriend had to work late last Thursday after I returned from a road trip and the fridge was so bare that I could actually see the items I should've thrown out years ago so [sob, sob] I was forced to eat out alone. I figured the only thing that could give me comfort would be a bowl of matzo ball soup. But where could I find that 'round here this late at night?
When I walked in, I really, really wanted to love this place. It was empty, excepting one threesome at a four-top and a few folks at the bar, and the hostess immediately greeted me and didn't make me feel like a circus freak for arriving solo past sundown. I sat in plain view of the many painted murals on the walls, and soon found myself wishing I was basking on a beach in Mykonos instead of sitting at the blue-check-cloth-covered table alone. Surely sensing my wistfulness, the hostess asked what I needed and brought me a bowl of hot soup even before the server arrived to greet me. Now that's service.
The steaming bowl was dotted with chunks of chicken throughout, but dang--there was so much lemon in it that I think I began to pucker while placing my drink order. I searched over the menu for something else that may satisfy and started really missing my man. If he was here, I thought, I would order my favorites to split: the flaming saganaki (which I always order extra crispy), a plate of moussaka or pasticcio, and a honking big hunk of baklava. But since I was alone I had to show restraint.
That evening's specials were all fish dishes, which prompted me to suspect that scaly things were what the chef did best. (Ah, perhaps it's better I'm here without my handsome seafood hater!) So I ordered the grilled octopus as a starter. While waiting for it to arrive, my kind server returned to chat me up a bit. He told me the restaurant has been under the same Greek ownership for ages, but after Hurricane Katrina, it underwent a transformation from being the Sea Shanty to MBFGR because the owner wanted a change. Now I was really excited to dig into my dish.
Unfortunately, it nearly took a steak knife to do so. The two tentacles arrived in concentric pools, one of olive oil and a smaller circle of balsamic, which gave them fine flavor but the meat was so tough to chew that I must've resembled a pitcher at the mound while I masticated. Ugh.
Then with my protein craving out of the way, I opted for a safety choice: the spanakopita. Thankfully this dish was tasty, but it sure wasn't memorable. The flaky ration even looked a little sad on the plate, perfectly rectangular and nearly smashed flat with a single seriously over-lemoned potato wedge balancing an inch away. It's sad to say, but I honestly felt like the person who created it had lost his or her passion for cooking. It's a strange thing to actually taste that in a meal.
When the hostess returned to ask how I liked the soup, I was honest and told her it was a big too tangy for my liking. "Oh," she responded. "And how about the rest of your dinner?" I told her I mostly enjoyed the spinach pie and had the octopus, which was just okay. "Come back again and order the chicken souvlaki platter," she said. "That you'll really like."
Truthfully, I can't imagine I'll be coming back. If the owner has been doing seafood for decades but my two legs of octopus were barely edible and the staff is recommending the chicken, maybe it's time to search for another place to get cozy. Or maybe I should just keep a jar of the Manischewitz
stuffed in my pantry for those lonely nights. Sigh.
My Big Fat Greek Restaurant is located at 3445 Griffin Road in Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-961-5030, or visit mbfgr.com.
Freelance writer Riki Altman eats everything that won't try and eat her first (with exceptions, of course) and dates younger men, older men, and older men who act like young men, along with locals, tourists, illegal aliens and just plain aliens. Love Bites is a compilation of what happens when her dining and dating ordeals collide. Sometimes, it just ain't pretty.