Top

dining

Stories

 

Mezze in the Montrose

At Byzantio, sit back with a drink, enjoy the good food and ignore the uneven service.

 See more photos from Byzantio's kitchen and cozy dining room in our slideshow.

My dining companion, a longtime Montrose resident, remembers a time when Byzantio only had a toaster oven sitting at the end of its long bar. I don't. I never went to Byzantio back in the "old days," when it first opened in 2004. It's difficult to imagine the place these days supplying food on just a toaster oven, especially with a plate of lamb souvlaki in front of me and a magnificent chicken pizza in front of my friend.

It's a Friday night, and the little Greek bar-cum-restaurant in the heart of Montrose is nearly overflowing with people. Most of them, unlike us, are there for the drinks. It's also apparently steak night, although I don't see any steaks landing on the tables. I'm not sure that steak night is a big draw for Byzantio's patrons: tables full of white-collars enjoying Mythos beers after work, middle-aged ladies catching up over frilly-looking cocktails, Greeks chatting animatedly at the bar, gay bois enjoying giant pint glasses of iced coffee, and a few people on casual dates.

The gyro sliders are strange but delicious.
Troy Fields
The gyro sliders are strange but delicious.

Location Info

Map

Byzantio Cafe & Bar

403 W. Gray
Houston, TX 77019

Category: Restaurant > Greek

Region: River Oaks

Details

Hours: 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. Mondays through Sundays.
Trio combo dip with pita: $9.95
Byzantio combo: $10.95
Gyro sliders: $8.95
Greek chicken pizza: $7.95
Byzantio special: $6.95
Greek toast: $5.25
Lamb souvlaki plate: $13.95
Homemade fries: $2
Caramel macchiato: $3.45


READ MORE
SLIDESHOW: Mezze in Montrose: Byzantio's Homey Greek Cuisine
BLOG POST: Gyro Sliders at Byzantio: A Greek-Italian-American Hybrid

It's a warm, comfortable atmosphere that's cosmopolitan without being overtly trendy. The few people who are ordering food are getting plates of Greek food like we did. I couldn't ask for more from the lamb souvlaki itself — tiny, tender knots of meat that slide easily off the wooden skewers and onto my plate. There's very little gamey flavor to the lamb, which has been cooked to a pleasant medium on the grill and seasoned efficiently with just a little salt and pepper. I find myself wishing I'd ordered a different side than the average-tasting, skinny french fries, and the odd ovals of tough French bread add nothing to the plate. But the lamb itself is fabulous. If only it weren't nearly $14.

My dining companion is enjoying his chicken pizza. It's clearly handmade, with a nice blister to the crust and only a small amount of sog in the middle despite the plethora of toppings: diced chicken, oily kasseri cheese, tomatoes, onions, bell peppers and a vigorous dash of powdered oregano.

Over the pizza, my friend begins wistfully recounting tales of how he used to get "Greek toast" from roadside stands when he was living in Greece. They were filled with the same kasseri cheese and marinara sauce, like a pizza panini. Since Byzantio had its own version of the Greek toast on the menu, I file it away to order in the future.

We're still missing our appetizer, however. I saw it make the rounds in the crowded room earlier, a waiter (not our own) clearly confused about the pita and dip platter's final destination, but I didn't say anything. We had let our waitress know when she brought our entrées out, and she apologized profusely — probably more than was necessary. They are clearly in the weeds this night, and her concern is endearing. She brings a fresh plate a few minutes later, saying, "I had them make you a new one. Your original plate had been sitting back there, getting cold." Now I appreciate her even more.

But although the dip plate is very good — garlicky hummus and thick (albeit not spicy) tirokafeteri dip with the serrano peppers perhaps missing, presented with more pita bread than we ever could have used — the service at Byzantio concerns me. If it wants to be a restaurant, it needs to staff up on busy nights. But if all it wants is to be a bar that serves good Greek food, I'm willing to give it a lot more leeway.
_____________________

I get the feeling that Byzantio really prefers to be the latter. On its Web site, its mission statement is: "Houston's trendiest spot for a lite bite, cup of coffee or a cocktail." Not: "Houston's trendiest Greek restaurant," or some other such assertion. They don't seem to mind here if you want to linger at a table for hours, or only order a cup of coffee or two.

As it stands right now — and as it has stood for nearly a decade — Byzantio is a friendly, neighborhood spot where you can accomplish many things at once, food being just one of those accomplishments. Coming to Byzantio feels a bit like coming home. And that might be because the house itself used to be occupied by owners Dora Manolopoulos and Ilias Gianna­kopoulos, who redeveloped it as a Greek bar and cafe in 2004, adding its full kitchen a few years later.

Manolopoulos and Giannakopoulos are still constant fixtures in the place, which is staffed by equal amounts family members and chatty, non-blood-related bartenders, but the entire place still feels like a family get-together much of the time, especially when Giannakopoulos grills outside on the weekends. On a recent weekday lunch, Manolopoulos's niece Eleni was manning the place mostly alone, yet the service never suffered (it shouldn't have, as I was the only customer) and was as friendly as ever.

Eleni recommended the gyro sliders to go along with my Byzantio combo plate. At $11, it was a little pricy for a mezze platter that was half vegetables — sliced tomatoes, cucumbers, pepperoncinis and olives — but the outstanding meatballs and soft, tart dolmades made up for it. I stacked the tomatoes and feta cheese into little sandwiches, ate the kasseri with bites of meatball dipped in tzatziki and marveled at what an ideal hot-weather dish it was as I sat on Byzantio's broad front porch in the sunshine.

1
 
2
 
All
 
Next Page »
 
My Voice Nation Help
3 comments
Attyrose3
Attyrose3

I have not been to Byzantio in many years but used to always enjoy the food and atmosphere. Thanks for the review. I will make a point of going back, particularly since One's A Meal was turned into Theo's and the guy who owns and runs it seems intent on driving away all long time customers. I do wonder though, if someone was in the mood for something that was not particularly influenced by Middle Eastern cuisine, could they find it at Bysantio. Say I was on a date and my date did not like Gyros, how is the General Tso's Chicken at Byzantio?

Heenajeje
Heenajeje

Love hangin on the patio at byzantio during the cooler autumn nights. And playing chess on the door stoop. The owners are interesting people, and there's always an eclectic crowd.

Also, love the lamb...he buys the best, which is pricier than the cheap fatty stuff from New Zealand.

Rip
Rip

This will never happen for one reason... who would date you? Nobody likes an asshole.

 
Loading...