Tuesday, November 20, 2012

American or Greek, Leo's has what you seek

Posted By on Tue, Nov 20, 2012 at 12:13 PM

I'm going to start this post off with a bold assertion: when it comes to gyros, Little Rock's offerings are among some of the most elite around. I don't think anybody would peg Central Arkansas as a hotbed of Mediterranean delicacies, but whether it's the tasty offerings of our yearly Greek Food Festival or the growing number of restaurants serving Greek and Turkish delights, Middle Eastern cuisine is running a strong second to Mexican food as the best ethnic food in the Rock.

One of the oldest and best-loved of these establishments is Leo's Greek Castle, a small restaurant in Hillcrest that is the definition of quaint and cozy. Unlike Little Rock's other Greek restaurants, Leo's sports a menu that not only includes the expected gyros, hummus, and shawarma, but also has a full breakfast menu and a wide selection of American-style burgers and sandwiches to fit any taste. It's impressive that the place can manage such a wide menu out of such a small location, but whether sitting in the small interior dining room, taking advantage of the patio, or picking up an order to go, Leo's brings the deliciousness quickly to the hungry masses.

On a recent trip to Leo's we started off with a plate of hummus, and were treated to a large bowl of the smooth chickpea dip coupled with an ample amount of warm, soft pita. The hummus was one of the more uniquely flavored versions I've had in town, with a sour tang to it that reminded us more of pickle juice or mustard rather than the expected lemon juice. While surprising, it didn't hurt the flavor of the dip whatsoever, and we found ourselves enjoying the creamy-textured spread more and more as our tastebuds became used to the flavor. I'm normally a fan of tahini-heavy hummus, and while the sesame paste flavor was barely present here, I would still consider this one of the better versions in town. The hummus is one of several appetizers available, with classics like baba ghanouj, tabbouleh, dolmades, and even an oddly incongruous gazpacho.


Of course, any place that calls itself a "Greek Castle" better be able to make great gyros, and Leo's does. I was a little skeptical at my sandwich at first, as the shaved beef and lamb mixture was fried to a darker, more well-done texture than I'm used to, but my doubts all evaporated at the first bite. Crisp edges gave way to a tender, moist interior on each piece of meat, and the tangy tzatziki sauce and plentiful onions and tomatoes made for a nice complement to the hearty portion of gyros meat. Just as with the hummus dip, the pita was soft, fresh, and warm, and the even distribution of ingredients across the sandwich made each bite the perfect balance of flavor. There are several good gyros places in town such as Layla's and Ali Baba, and Leo's certainly joins those as an elite place to get your gyros fix.

Not being in the mood for Greek food, my dining companion decided to order from the American side of the menu, and after finding out that Leo's was out of avocados for the California Burger, she went for the most American of all burgers: the Bacon Cheese Burger. The burger came out with a large, flavorful grilled beef patty, a slice of melted American cheese, and enough crispy bacon to prove that Leo's might know a thing or two about breakfast, too. The toppings were pretty standard: iceberg lettuce, tomato, and a few too many onions, but the large burger was still quite tasty. It's become common for restaurants to offer multiple menus to span different ethnic cuisines, but Leo's is the sort of place that was doing it before it got trendy; whether you want to call it a diner that serves Greek food or a Greek place that serves diner food, the result is always tasty.

I've been on a search for the best gyros in town, and I've got to say that Leo's definitely takes its place among the elite purveyors of shaved meat. The service leaves a little to be desired, but the food comes out hot and quick, making it a great spot for lunch. The cafe is located at 2925 Kavanaugh, and they're open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday-Saturday and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sundays.

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