Papa Cristo’s Taverna: Varied Doesn’t Cover it at Greek Classic

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Greek Restaurant Los Angeles

Papa Cristo's has grown in size and scope since debuting in 1948.

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.

Greek Restaurant Los Angeles

A sprawling mural depicts the dining room and more on the building’s west side, facing Normandie Avenue.

Restaurant Menu Los Angeles

Papa Cristo’s hand-painted menu and overflow photos tout the taverna’s ever-expanding repertoire.

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.

Greek Restaurant Los Angeles

To honor father Sam, Chrys Chrys hangs a portrait high above the deli counter.

Greek Market Los Angeles

Just like it did in the early days, Papa Cristo’s sells Greek wines, dips, baklava, honey, olives, Feta and more.

Greek Restaurant Los Angeles

Greek travel posters line the sprawling dining room. Up-tempo Greek music fills the air, and CDs are of course available for sale. The tablecloths are the colors of the Greek flag: blue and white.

Greek Food Los Angeles

My friend Bryan and I kicked off our gut-busting lunch with Sizzling Greek Feta ($7.99) served with grilled tomato slices, Kalamata olives, supple Greek feta slabs, and a plate of baguettes, all the ingredients necessary to build Greek-style Caprese sandwiches.

Greek Food Los Angeles

Shrimp Santorini ($8.99) featured jumbo shrimp sautéed in skillet with zesty tomato sauce, Kalamata olives, Greek feta and garlic.

Greek Food Los Angeles

With the Gyro & Kebab Plate ($15.49), we received spit-roasted slices of beef and lamb, a single skewer of char-grilled chicken breast kebab (with green bell peppers), luscious skin-on grilled potatoes, Greek salad, pita, tangy dill-infused tzatziki sauce and herb-loaded vinaigrette for the salad. Greasy, grill-seared gyros definitive qualify as Greek comfort food.

Pita Los Angeles

Fluffy house-made pita is especially good, grilled before serving until warm, which creates a delicate crust.

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.”

Baklava Los Angeles

Combination Baklava ($2.99) was solid, flaky, honey soaked, and probably packing more cinnamon than normal. I paired baklava with another Greek sweet, Melomakarona, a semolina cookie seasoned with walnuts, orange juice, cinnamon, cloves and sugar.

Greek Dessert Los Angeles

Space-age sounding Galactobaklava ($1.49) was a phyllo cup filled with non-dairy custard, with walnut base, dusted with cinnamon.

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.

Papa Cristo’s Taverna: Varied Doesn’t Cover it at Greek Classic


Joshua Lurie

Joshua Lurie founded FoodGPS in 2005. Read about him here.

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