Pick-up Artist: Hellas Grill Express

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

There was precious little about the exterior trappings of Hellas Grill Express to suggest it'd ever be a restaurant worth recommending.

Aside from a Greek-themed awning, I'd say "humble-looking" almost seemed too kind to describe the outside of this tinier-than-tiny shop attached to a Grandview carryout and occupying the former Cowtown Pizza space.

Inside, the nondescript three-tabled joint is the opposite of accommodating. There's only a few non-sequitur posters (promoting the city of Paris and the movie Reservoir Dogs) providing puzzling clues to Hellas' identity or otherwise giving diners anything to gaze upon apart from the non-view of the teeny kitchen, which is obscured by towers of empty pizza boxes and other "to-go" accoutrements.

Not even the little menu - which mixes casual-Greek-eatery standbys in with wings, submarine sandwiches and generic bar-noshing fried things - inspired much confidence.

By now, you're probably thinking the setup of this article must inevitably result in a place I unexpectedly liked, right? Well, Hellas yeah!

In fact, I think the quality of Hellas' Greek grub is about as good as the lunchy stuff served at many of its top-shelf brothers, only Hellas has rock-bottom low prices. (Speaking of brothers, Hellas is operated by Moses Velio, sibling to local restaurateur Jimmy V.)

This makes Hellas one of the better Greek takeout options around - and I emphasize Greek because the non-Hellenic options are rather run-of-the-mill.

• Spanikopita ($2.50) A warm, surprisingly large, really buttery, really flaky and hard-to-stop-munching spinach pie with several layers of crispy pastry packed with a fragrant, leafy filling.

• Twisted Feta ($4) This spikily spicy, herby and very garlicky "kopanisti"-like feta cheese dip was over-the-top and top-notch.

• Hummus ($4) Straight ahead and very solid. The dense and medium-coarse no-B.S. dip tasted of carefully seasoned garbanzo beans.

• Dolmathes ($4) Terrific. Four warm, plump grape-leaf bundles jammed with rice and a juicy ground beef mix were covered in a dill-flecked avgolemono sauce.

• Greek gyro ($5) Huge and seriously over-crammed with good meat plus all the expected salady trimmings and a creamy garlicky dressing. Definitely far above average.

• Chicken gyro ($5) As impressive and overstuffed as the Greek gyro, but made with kebab-like grilled chunks of oregano-smitten chicken.

• French fries ($1.50) Nothing special.

• Greek Salad ($3.75/$5) Crunchy and fresh with all the requisite ingredients (and of good quality).

• Greek Favorite Pizza ($14) I liked the flavors of baked gyro meat, green olive, feta, onions and tomatoes on the pizza, but the crust tasted bready and pre-fab.

• Baklava (2.50) Big, well-made, cinnamony and nutty, and an excellent value.

• Kataifi ($2.50) A nutty, shredded-wheat delight and a steal at this price.

Boxed and Bagged

Hellas Grill Express' carryout performance

Percentage of orders correct: 100

Time promised: 20 minutes

Time ready: When I arrived after 15 minutes

Good to go?: Hellas employs an arsenal of appropriate containers for its various foodstuffs. And Hellas got everything correct on a particularly large, somewhat complicated order, even making the effort to phone me when the food was ready prior to the time promised.

E-mail food news and dining tips to gbenton@columbusalive.com

Hellas Grill Express

1333 Northwest Blvd., Grandview