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The Favourite Greek: Dining Around the World in Peterborough & the Kawarthas

brick building

360 George St. North, Peterborough

Chios is everything you imagine when you picture the Greek Islands. Located in the North Aegean Sea, the colours are profound, the bright blue of the sky, and the blue sea curving along big beaches, the deep green of olive trees and grapevines, the burning orange of a chapel roof, or a sunset, dropping down behind a long row of traditional windmills. And like everywhere in Greece, the food is excellent, and ancient, just a few honest ingredients, combined with care. It was here that the late Bob Vassiliadis was born and raised, and he went on to become something of a legend on the Peterborough restaurant scene.

And now his son, George, is continuing that legacy. Noting that after his father moved to Canada in the 1960s, Bob met George’s mother in Vancouver, trained in culinary arts at George Brown College in Toronto, then opened his first restaurant in Peterborough in the 1970s. In the 1980s, he bought the Shish-Kabob Hut and grew it into a local institution, and perhaps the first place a whole generation of local families got a true taste of Greece.

inside a restaurant

That’s what George offers at the Favourite Greek, set on George Street in the heart of the city, almost directly under the clock tower, a restaurant he’s owned and run for 13 years, since leaving the Shish-Kebob Hut. He says his dad impacts everything he does, from how he runs the business, to what they serve on the plate. “Everything I do, I think, ‘How would dad do it?,’” he says.

They keep the menu simple, serving classics like spanakopita (spinach pie in a filo pastry, with feta cheese), saganaki (always an addictive dish—a flambéed Greek cheese), as well as dolmades (grape leaves, stuffed with rice and spices) and charbroiled lamb chops. He notes that their chicken souvlaki (the meat marinated and cooked on a skewer, served up with Greek salad and other sides), and their dips, are the bestsellers.

a picture of Greece on a wall

On a recent visit, I tried the latter, which Vassiliadis notes are made by hand, with recipes handed down through the generations of his family (some of whom still live on Chios). First the tzadziki, which was fresh and light and cucumber-forward, tasted like summer and sunshine, and took me back to my many visits to Greece, tasting it on a street-corner gyro. And then, the favourite, the feta and hot peppers. Unbelievable creamy—perfect to scoop up with a slice of pita bread—the saltiness of the feta is cut by the peppers. The kind of thing you could eat, all night long.

—Tim Johnson