In 1948, Sam Chrys opened C&K grocery in the primarily Greek neighborhood now known as the Byzantine-Latino Quarter. He originally imported foods from Greece. As adjacent space gradually became available, Sam’s son Chrys S. Chrys, who inherited the business, expanded to include a restaurant (1984) and dining room (1998). Today, Papa Cristo’s Taverna probably offers the finest example of affordably-priced Greek comfort food in the city.
The demographics of the neighborhood have shifted radically over the years and today, the Byzantine-Latino Quarter primarily houses Latinos. The only high-profile remnants of the neighborhood’s past are Papa Cristo’s and The St. Sophia Greek Orthodox Church across the street.
Their menu includes grilled Octapodakia, Macaronia (Greek spaghetti) with burnt butter and ground Kefalotiri cheese, Souvlaki (marinated lamb skewers), Loukaniko (Greek sausage), whole grilled fish, lamb chops and roasted lamb with rice and green beans. For health-nuts, there are less flavorful but still viable options like chicken gyro patties, a half-chicken with “Papa’s red rub” and appetizers such as hummus and vegetarian grape leaves.
On the side of the deli counter, you’ll find shelves of baklava. When most people hear the word baklava, they envision sheets of syrupy phyllo sandwiching ground walnuts, but Papa Cristo’s shows that so much more is possible. Not only do they use different nuts, but they also incorporate several shapes in their repertoire, including “fingers.”
According to Valli Herman’s L.A. Times article from February 25, 2004, which was posted on the door, Chrys Chrys planned to add a Central American market selling “feta quesadillas” and “baklava-inspired tamales, filled with chopped walnuts and honey.” Either that concept disappeared before it started or my eyes are closed, because I didn’t see anything approaching those dishes anywhere in the establishment. If I ever got the chance to eat a baklava tamale, I sure as hell would have found it.
Next time I visit Papa Cristo’s, it will be to attend My Big Fat Greek Family-Style Dinner, a feast inspired by the hit movie with a similar name, which takes place every Thursday night and includes a belly dancer. For $18.95, there’s a Greek wine tasting at 6:30, followed by a dinner of appetizers, lamb, chicken, potatoes, green beans, drinks and dessert. Count me in and roll me out.
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