In Southeast Baltimore is a neighborhood previously home to a bustling Greek community. While the Greektown area has changed a lot over the years, it still exists as a hub for Baltimore’s Greek cuisine. Here is where Baltimore Banner reader Toni Schmidt’s says her favorite Baltimore restaurant, Zorba’s Bar & Grill is serving some excellent, “fresh and not out-of-a-box frozen food.”

In my series, Ask Charm City Table, I visit readers’ favorite restaurants and highlight my experience while also sharing some of my own recommendations. This time, I sipped Greek wine and tried some of the grilled seafood, meats and sides at Zorba’s.

Zorba's entrees. (Simone Phillips)

Zorba’s opened in 1989 and maintains that casual, sentimental, family-owned restaurant feel. In the narrow doorway of the restaurant, I noticed black and white photos that looked like frames from a movie hung on both sides of the walls all the way to the back of the restaurant. The bartender says they were all from the1964 film, “Zorba the Greek.”

Photos from the movie "Zorba and the Greek" line the walls. (Simone Phillips)

To the left of the entrance, is the bar area — an enormous oakwood bar with a three-sided mirror, and a limited spirit and wine collection. In the back were a few tables covered with blue-and-white picnic cloths, a collage of local awards and newspaper features dating back to the 90s. Finally, there was the kitchen, open and a bit shabby in appearance with a rotating spit; the meat roasting for gyros and souvlaki.

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I dined at the bar and chose between a couple of Greek wine and spirit options. I started with a glass of Amethystos Red, a popular Cabernet from Greece. My glass was filled to the rim by the bartender— a medium-bodied red with notes of oak, plum and berries. I enjoyed the subtle sweetness and earthy flavors and thought it paired well with the grilled meats.

A glass of Amethystos red wine from Greece. (Simone Phillips)

For food, I ordered fried shrimp, grilled lamb chops and, at the bartender’s suggestion, the pork gyro. Baltimore Banner reader Toni Schmidt says Zorba’s “without a doubt has the best fried shrimp.” The restaurant uses their own frying batter which is airy and crispy. Their butterflied shrimp was some of the best I have tried recently; golden brown, lightly salted with a touch of citrus.

Next, I ate grilled lamb chops with rice pilaf and string beans and roasted potatoes. Six grilled lamb chops came with my order, tender and full of flavor. I squeezed a little lemon before each bite adding to the exciting, savory spices. The rice pilaf was fluffy and comforting, drizzled with a lovely tomato sauce, and the string beans and potatoes were cooked until soft and seasoned well. It was a tough call, but the lamb chops and its accompanied sides were my favorites of the evening.

Flavorful pork gyros and hand-cut fries. (Simone Phillips)

Last, I tasted the pork gyro which came with Zorba fries. Think fresh cut french fries in the shape of potato chips and you have an idea of what Zorba fries are. They are noticeably hand cut and fried golden brown. As a lover of french fries, I will absolutely be returning for these. The texture and pure fresh potato flavor were so satisfying.

My gyro was dressed with pieces of roasted pork, tzatziki sauce, tomatoes, lettuce, and feta cheese. The pork was perfectly juicy and the flavors of the gyro were outstanding.

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Everything I ate that day was made with care and attention to flavor and ingredients. Each detail made me feel like I was dining at a homey, local institution where the food speaks for itself.

I would love to know your favorite restaurants or share my own dining suggestions in the Baltimore area. Email simone.phillips@thebaltimorebanner.com with recommendations and questions.

Simone Phillips is part of The Baltimore Banner's Creatives in Residence program, which amplifies the work of artists and writers from the Baltimore region. 

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