With such a large Greek population and a long history of making and serving food to the community (the Greek Festival will celebrate its 35th anniversary June 2-5), I am amazed that there aren't more outstanding options in town. But there's always hope. So I visited Basilis, which opened about a year ago, with optimism. It's located in the former home of Carytown Seafood, and I was surprised at how much seating the new owners managed to squeeze into this transformed space.
The prices are ridiculously reasonable, so it feels mean to be critical. But I'll start with the moussaka, which just didn't have enough meat. It might not be traditional, but I prefer mashed potatoes to sliced potatoes as the base. And since I'm being persnickety, the béchamel sauce should be lighter, not custardy and rigid. The accompanying tomato-braised green beans would benefit from a dash of Italian herbs and some salt.
My daughter's soutzoukakia was enough to feed her for dinner and me for lunch the next day and was only $5.95. The hearty meatballs were slathered with marinara and served over a bed of orzo. The fried calamari was pleasant, though it could have been crispier, but the house-made tzatziki sauce, packed with aromatic garlic, elevated this appetizer. The spanakopita was truly a "spinach pie," not the phyllo-encased triangles I expected, with too much spinach, not enough feta.
Russ' gyro sandwich (pictured), however, was outstanding. The meat is sliced from a rotisserie of ground beef and lamb that cooks slowly, allowing the juices to keep the meat flavorful. Served with lettuce, tomato and that marvelous tzatziki sauce in a grilled pita, this quintessential dish could not have been tastier.
But the desserts were where great expectations fell flat. The baklava and the galaktoboureko had excellent flavor, but the phyllo layers were soggy. Still, with strategic ordering, Basilis could become one of my regular picks for low-cost carry-out.
3107 W. Cary St., 257-7277 Prices: Appetizers and salads, $2.50 to $8.50; sandwiches, platters and entrées, $4.95 to $9.95; desserts $3.50 or less. Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday to Thursday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.