With McDonald's prices edging toward $10 for a Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese Meal, you might as well go for fast food that tastes good and gives you fewer calories from fat. A pita wrap at Estia (Greek for “hearth”) is $10.60, though I admit that it does include French fries. Inside.
I really enjoyed the wraps, bowls and salads at Estia, though on one Friday night visit the place was loud and hectic. (Two parties of parents had wisely placed their children at kids' tables.) A late Saturday, on the other hand, was tranquil as could be.
Some of the goodness comes from real lamb and from pork belly. It's not always easy to find lamb even at a Lebanese restaurant, so I order it when I can get it. Other stand-out ingredients, as you mix and match, are a particularly creamy feta and a garlic sauce that's just the right balance of sharp and mellow.
Owners Nina and Paul Bittas and cousin George Xenos wanted to serve customers the food they grew up eating — “Kalamatas, olive oil, feta are staples in our homes,” Nina said — but with some modern additions. Thus they use feta imported from Greece, “not Bulgarian or French,” but serve non-Greek quinoa and hummus, for example, and their take on pico de gallo (“Greek-o de gallo”). They opened an Estia (es-TEE-a) in Troy in 2016, then added a Warren store and a food truck, and came to Grosse Pointe Woods last December.
Nina Bittas, who lives in the Pointes, says food there doesn't show “a lot of variety, it's kind of bland. So something like this with more flavor, not a meatloaf and potatoes kind of thing,” has been a hit.
At the store, you enter the line and tell the friendly counter workers, Subway-style, what-all you want in your bowl, salad, or wrap, choosing among columns listing grain bases (white and brown rice, quinoa), proteins, toppings, and sauces. One night I chose a bowl with rice pilaf, lamb, garlic sauce, hummus, a whole lot of veggies, olives, and a lemon-oregano broth.
Another night it was a lot of the same but with charred chicken, stewed peas, and florina, which is a spicy fresh tomato sauce from Nina's uncle's recipe, a “Greek salsa” with jalapeño. An iceberg salad was similarly loaded, with a lot besides beets, red onion, and twice the amount of Greek dressing you could use, mercifully served on the side.
All this adds up to a dish that serves two, so you can lower your per-person price for a fast-food bowl to $6.70. Compare to $8.19 for a Big Mac Meal.
Everything is packaged for carry-out, up to the plastic-wrapped fork-spoon-knife and the carrying bag, even if you're eating in. A plant-based plastic lid is labeled “turns into soil when commercially composted”; don't try this at home.
Nina Bittas assured me that pork belly on a spit is the real Greek gyros — in Greece, 90% is pork — so it's labeled “traditional” on the menu. It was Greek immigrants to the U.S. who popularized the beef-and-lamb combo Estia calls “Americano.”
I liked both and found the lamb-beef mix plenty lamb-y. The pork is particularly rich and mellow and your pita wrap can have it slathered with “YCG” sauce (yogurt-cucumber-garlic). Pita is made to order in-house and you can watch the workers rolling it out on the grill.
Fries are crisp and you can order them fancy with feta and olive oil. Hummus was pure chick-pea flavor, missing the garlic I prefer. The only dish at Estia I didn't like was chicken-lemon-rice soup: the rice was too dissolved, creating a gelatinous texture.
You could miss it if you come in the front door (there's a free parking lot in back), but look for the case with spinach-phyllo and feta-phyllo triangles.
Since I always have room for dessert, I'd like to remind the owners of Estia that Greece has a noble dessert tradition and its name is baklava. If you don't want to make baklava (you don't), you can buy it at any number of reputable establishments, and no one will mind if they are Arab, not Greek.
The Estia food truck visits breweries and private parties and is currently at the Troy store, which is closed for renovations. Unlike the Grosse Pointe Woods location, Troy and Warren are open on Sundays. They're at 2897 West Maple Rd. (248-537-2050) and 5753 Twelve Mile Rd. (586-248-4999), respectively.
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