Around the World in Houston: Discover Greece

around-the-world-in-houston-discovering-greece
Photo courtesy of Houston Greek Fest

With a labyrinth of cultures represented in every nook and cranny of town, Houston is one of the most ethnically diverse cities in America. To celebrate this world-class melting pot, we’ll be exploring a new region of the globe through a Houston lens each week, from annual festivals and museums to restaurants and cultural experiences. Join the journey with our Around the World in Houston series.

Greek culture is alive and well in Houston, from restaurants slinging souvlaki and Hellenic wines to a quartet of annual festivals celebrating traditional art, music and dance, food and drink, and heritage.

Annual Festivals & Cultural Events

Museums & Cultural Organizations

  • Hellenic Cultural Center of the Southwest – The Hellenic Cultural Center of the Southwest strives to promote the rich history and legacy that Hellenes have given to civilization, focusing on contributions to language, government, arts, architecture, athletics, science, medicine, and philosophy. Look out for educational and cultural programs; film presentations; lectures, exhibitions and classes; and celebration dinners, movie screenings, and meet-ups.
  • Antiquities at the Museum of Fine Art Houston – The Antiquities collection provides a glimpse into the ancient world, with over 450 works including a Hellenistic Greek bronze head, an Egyptian coffin, and a Roman statue of Dionysus.
  • Arts of the Ancient World at the Menil Collection – Explore art from the ancient world at the Menil Collection, with Paleolithic artifacts and objects from the civilizations of the ancient Mediterranean including marble figures and stoneware from the Cyclades Islands, bronze votive figurines, and ceramics from Greece.

Hellenic Food & Drink

Restaurants & Bars

  • Agora – This gourmet coffee shop and wine bar is the perfect place to escape to the Mediterranean and unwind. Sip an espresso or glass of Greek wine alongside cakes, croissants, and biscotti.
  • Alexander the Great Greek Restaurant – This Galleria/Uptown-area eatery focuses on traditional flavors, with dishes including Greek-style hummus, tarama (red caviar), avgolemono soup, shrimp saganaki, and oven-baked katsikaki (goat). On Friday and Saturday nights, enjoy ballroom and belly-dancing.
  • El Greco Greek Restaurant – Hit this East End gem for authentic food at great prices, from Greek village salad and home-cut Greek fries to souvlaki plates, stuffed eggplant, and slow-roasted lamb shank.
  • Harry’s Restaurant & Cafe – This fan-favorite diner boasts and eclectic menu, with must-trys including baklava French toast, chicken souvlaki, and feta fries. And look out for lunch specials including lamb roast, pastichio, and Harry’s Greek dish of the day.
  • Helen Greek Food & Wine Helen in the Heights – These sister eateries, one in Rice Village (Helen Greek Food & Wine) and the other in the Heights, dish out what many consider to be the best Greek food in the city. Star sommelier Evan Turner makes sure the Hellenic wine offerings are top-notch, while Chef William Wright aims to please with dishes like lemon-and-herb stuffed whole fish, feta-brined chicken, and mussels and shrimp saganaki. The restaurants each have different menus and vibes, so fans will want to check out both.
  • Niko Niko’s – With three locations, including an awesome gyro stand in Downtown’s Market Square, you’ll pretty much always find a packed house at Niko Niko’s. Start with fried calamari and tzatziki or a crisp Greek salad, then move onto gyros, falafel pitas, and classic plates like lamb shanks, pastichio, and mousaka. Just be sure to save room for some Greek sweets and pastries, from loukamades and baklava to traditional Greek rice pudding.
  • The Olive Oil Restaurant – Over in Spring, this family-owned and operated number offers live music and dancing alongside Greek specialties like moussaka, pastitsio, cheese and spinach pies, braised beef kokkinisto, feta-tomato shrimp, and baked lemon chicken.
  • Opa Greek Tavern – Pita and dips, stuffed grape leaves, flamed kefalograviera cheese, and slow-roasted leg of lamb are all on the menu at this Greek taverna.
  • Savvas Greek Cuisine & Grill – In Humble, fresh eats come in the form of feta saganaki, lamb souvlaki, fried calamari, and grilled shrimp spaghetti.
  • Simply Greek – Simple flavors are the name of the game at this authentic eatery, where plates range from cheese and spinach pies to Greek sausage, gyro, and falafel platters.
  • Sokol’s Greek Deli & Cafe – This Clear Lake joint offers dine-in and take-out, with specialties including gyros sandwiches and plates, baba ghanoush, and keftedes (Greek meatballs).
  • Stalla’s Greek Grill & Deli – Hit this homestyle grill and deli for Greek salads, gyros, hummus, pastitsio, and other traditional dishes.
  • Theo’s – Greek specialties like gyros, souvlaki, and moussaka are served into the wee hours of the night at this popular lower Westheimer hangout.
  • Yia Yia Mary’s – This Pappas Mediterranean kitchen offers a bevy of traditional dishes, including but not limited to stuffed grape leaves, beef and lamb keftedes, wood-grilled branzino, and moussaka.

Grocery Stores & Bakeries

  • Phoenicia Specialty Foods – With two locations, this bustling international market offers fresh produce, meats and seafood, cheeses and baked goods, and a plethora of gourmet eats, with a special focus on Mediterranean cuisine. Step inside and you’ll be hit with the wafting scent of freshly baked pita, piping hot and traveling through the stores on conveyor belts; explore further and you’ll find freshly prepared foods including baba ghanoush, hummus, tabouli, olive tapenade, and non-vegetarian cuisines like slow-roasted lamb shank, herb-crusted salmon, rotisserie chicken, and lamb gyro; a tapestry of deli meat, olives, and Greek cheeses like halloumi, feta, and kefalograviera; a butcher and seafood shop rocking halal meats, fresh and frozen catches, and fish flown in weekly straight from the Aegean Sea; fresh produce from grape leaves and kumquat to Persian cucumbers and figs; a blend of imported goods, ancient grains, oils, vinegars, and spices like aleppo pepper, mahlab (wild sour cherry spice), Greek oregano, sumac, and saffron; and bakery section with artisan breads, syrup-drizzled treats like apple baklava and imported chocolates and candies. In the Downtown location, there’s an in-house gastropub MKT Bar, offering a worldly wine list, local brews, and internationally-inspired grub like braised lamb tacos, four-cheese Mediterranean-style queso, and za’atar-dusted fries. In the 55,000-square foot Westheimer location, you’ll also find Arpi’s Deli, a restaurant specializing in slow-cooked meats and meze.
  • Euro Bakery & Café – Owned and operated by a self-taught Greek chef and her family, this Spring café offers Greek pastries like baklava and cookies alongside traditional dishes like hummus, gyros, and souzoukakia (Greek-style meatballs).

Language Classes, Education Centers, Groups & Meet-Ups

  • The Annunciation Greek Language and Culture School – Founded in 1918, this after-school program strives to teach the Greek language, history, and culture to children of pre-elementary, elementary, and middle school age. The school is especially (but not exclusively) geared towards American children of Greek ancestry and also offers classes for teens and adults.
  • The Olympian Dancers of Houston – The Olympian Dancers Greek dance troupe was established in 1995, providing young Greeks and Greek-Americans an opportunity to learn and participate in their heritage through the art of dance.
  • Hellenic Professional Society of Texas – This non-profit organization sponsors social, cultural, educational, scientific, technical, and humanitarian while encouraging and promoting the pursuit of education among people of Greek descent throughout the United States. Look out for musical performances, film festivals, concerts, folk dancing shows, scientific lectures, archeological presentations, scholarship programs, formal and informal get-togethers, and poetry evenings.