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Friday, 24 February 2012

Stephos – Inexpensive Staple of Downtown

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It had been a long time coming. Ying had been wanting to make yummy in her tummy courtesy of Stepho’s for a few days now and we finally went there a few Mondays ago.  Located in downtown Vancouver, Stepho’s is characterized by budget friendly prices, long line-ups, and calamari dinners.  It is also one of the few unexpected places that serve halal meat so Nabs can eat meat here.  In fact, Nabs can even have the calamari here!  We know what you’re thinking and we were thinking the same thing too.  With all that Stepho’s has going for it, how could we not have been here already??  As a matter of fact, the last time any of us visited here was probably 1.5-2 years ago and a lot can have changed in that time.  So Nabs, being unsure whether they still had halal meat, was hesitant to go.  In the end, we convinced him to tag along, promising that we would find out if it’s halal once we got there.

Stepho’s is located on Davie street and if you’ve ever driven down this street,  you know parking can be a headache and costly before 10 pm.  Fortunately we were headed here after 9:30 pm so we managed to find parking just 2 minutes walk down from the restaurant.  Beware, don’t try to be clever and park at the shoppers across the street, walk around in shoppers, then exit and go to Stepho’s.  Nabs’ friend got ticketed like that.
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Anyhow, once we entered we were swiftly seated and brought over menus.  Ying very courteously asked the server if their meat was halal and to Nabs’ surprise it was!  Joy!  The interior as you might notice was pretty cramped with tables only big enough to seat 3 comfortably and 4 at most.  The decor was very Greek with miniature models of Greek statues, art and more. The tables were quite cute with checkered plastic table cloths… at least they weren’t thin, disposable ones!
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Since Ying and I had never had the spanakopita, we ordered one order of this from the appetizer menu. The order consisted of two fairly large pieces of spanakopita.  Spanakopita, for those who don't know is a Greek pastry stuffed with spinach and feta cheese and sometimes other goodies such as scallions or eggs too.  Our spanakopita was just spinach and cheese.  This dish was pretty a hit and miss; the pastry was light, fluffy and flaky which is good but the spinach and cheese filling was too much spinach and not enough cheese and ended up being dry.  A little more cheese would have added more creaminess to the spanakopita and would have complimented the texture of the flaky pastry better. Ying commented that since she’s not a big cheese or spinach lover, she didn’t really enjoy the filling, but liked the pastry.
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Ahh! A shot of Ying and Nabs digging into their food. Look at the big portions of yumminess!
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I got my usual favourite: calamari dinner. At $9.95, I think this is truly a steal! The lightly battered deep fried squid pieces were piled up so high on the plate, but somehow they still had room for Greek salad and two pieces of roast potatoes and rice pilaf. True, it is a bit oily, but I just love these little buggers, especially dipped in Tzatziki sauce with some drizzled lemon juice. Call them my guilty pleasure!I have no complaints about this dish, as it is prepared reliably well each and every time I order it.
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Ying went with her usual at Stepho’s – the roast lamb, which is listed as the Taverna’s Specialty ($9.95). She usually doesn’t eat lamb, but finds Stepho’s roast lamb more than tolerable, as the distinct lamb flavour has been more or less cooked to oblivion. She noted that she likes to get one of the three meat plates even though she can’t finish… every single time. The main reason is because the souvlakia plates are not served with vege briami (Greek style roasted vegetables), which happens to be her favourite part of the dish. She said that if they had vege briami as a main dish on the menu, she would definitely order it! She completely avoided the Greek salad, as she is still convinced that her suspicious tummy issues after a Stepho’s meal many years ago can be attributed to something in that salad. She picked off about a third of the lamb meat and left the rest to me.
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Nabs went ahead with the Halal beef souvlaki:  The souvlaki at Stepho’s is served on a large full plate with rice pilaf, roast potatoes, Greek salad and meat on a skewer.  Nabs got the small version ($7.95) and even then he BARELY managed to finish it.  The Greek salad is topped with feta cheese and takes up about 20% of the plate.  Nabs started with this because he wanted to save the best for later.  He commented that the Greek salad was meh at best.  He did enjoy the meat dipped in Tzatziki sauce though.  Although the meat was good, the meal didn’t stand out from the average meal except the the quantity served for the price charged.   That might have made the food taste better than it really was; that said, it’s not bad food either.  It’s average.
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As if each plate wasn’t enough to fill us up, they were all served with a large piece of pita bread as well! It was served slightly warmed, but soft and chewy!

All in all, it was what we have come to expect.  Good quantity, average quality, low cost.  This combination makes Stepho’s eligible for more visits but only when the line up isn’t long.  We, at the Yummy In Our Tummy headquarters just cannot justify standing in the line up for any significant period of time for this meal.
The Yummies:
  • Food is average, but served in a large portion size for a relatively low cost (even McDonald’s runs you up to $7 for any meal nowadays and this is just ~$2 more!
  • Calamari dinner is among the better calamari out there – excellent value too!
  • Delicious vege briami according to Ying
  • Most importantly... Nabs-friendly Halal meat!
The Yuckies:
  • Parking really sucks in this neighbourhood and metered parking can add up quickly
  • Lineups to get seated can be extreme during peak dining hours
  • Below average Greek salad


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Stepho's Souvlaki Greek Taverna on Urbanspoon

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