This is the Pappas family’s return to their Greek roots. Yia Yia Mary’s, which means “Grandma Mary’s” is unmistakably a Pappas establishment: large, loud, bold, affable and efficient. This is mostly casual Greek food done in large, gregarious, convenient and family- and group-friendly fashion. The sprawling, high-ceiling, often-buzzing and comfortable dining room is usually crowded during the long lunch hours and most weekend evenings. It’s not a fine-dining restaurant, but it would probably work well for a pleasant family meal or a casual date. With many televisions tuned to the local sports teams, it’s a good place to dine while not missing the game.
The expected Greek dishes are served here suitably well, with robust flavors taking precedence over finesse, and in expected Pappas-size portions. Wine, an integral part of the Greek diet, is made easily available. There is a short wine list with two dozen Greek and New World wines ranging in general drinkability from retsina to one of California’s better merlots, Shafer. A dozen are served by the glass and even more are served by the easily refillable carafe (750 ml, the same size of a bottle, but it’s cheaper).
The grill gets a workout here, with its lamb, beef, chicken, and shrimp items. The fairly lengthy menu is divided among appetizers, salads and soups, pita sandwiches, souvlaki, rotisserie and souvlaki combinations, a handful of Greek specialties such as moussaka, seafood, sides and nearly ten desserts. There are over twenty appetizers, much more than just domaldes (stuffed grape leaves), spanikopita (phyllo pastry filled with spinach and feta), keftedes (meatballs in tomato sauce) and the flaming cheese.
Though Yia Yia Mary’s is not a cheap restaurant, a big appetizer, pita sandwich that’s served with crisp fries, or a salad can make for a satisfying and affordable meal. The Greek Salad is decent, though the ingredients are probably too coarsely cut and chopped, and more so, the unexpected presence of briny capers can be distracting. The souvlaki, cubes of grilled beef are juicy and fairly tender, but not as seasoned and as flavorful as these should be. The lamb in its several guises is better. Though the local favorite shrimp gets the most various treatments, there are also entrées featuring salmon, redfish, mahi mahi and rainbow trout, often with fresh oregano, garlic, lemon and olive oil.
If you have room, there is a rich and unique chocolate mousse cake and well-made baklava featuring walnuts. To note, for groups from three to ten and maybe more, Yia Yia Mary’s has bountiful multi-course family dinners.
Yia Yia Mary’s
4747 San Felipe (just west of Loop 610)
Houston, Texas 77056
Copyright Mike Riccetti. Adapted from Houston Dining on the Cheap, and used with permission.
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