Members of my family used to give me ride alongs in their big trucks down to the Houston Ship Channel to dump massive loads of grain for export. A skinny and long-legged preteen, my biggest joy was to wake up with the seagulls and step out into the gravel-like oyster covered parking lot and go into the cool air conditioned ambience of this one particular Greek restaurant on Clinton Drive. I never knew what entree to order, but I'd always start with the salad, fresh and cheesy, cold, vinegar based, with tons of olives and cucumber.
I remember eating my salad with some kind of fish, and I'd drink glasses of iced tea, and then force whatever family member it happened to be to splurge on coffee and Greek pastries. The place is long gone; the building stands empty; but the decor will live forever in my memory. Painted statues of Greek goddesses, topless, with scenes of the Mediterranean behind them guided you through a maze of columns covered in ivy to the main dining hall where rows of tables dressed in white linen and Greek inspired flower arrangements provided luxury in a neighborhood of trucks, ships, longshoremen, and an assortment of other working people, both good and bad. I continued to visit this restaurant into my adulthood, when in the late 80s it suddenly closed.
After I moved to Saskatchewan in the 90s, I found another wonderful Greek restaurant. It was inside of a mall, and what it lacked in decor it made up for with cheesy and hot delicious food, fabulous intricate desserts, and, of course, the staple of my life--Greek salad. The people that owned this place catered a dinner for me, and if I wanted to meet someone in that end of town, I would always ask to meet in my special place knowing I could always count on a table and be treated to a first class experience.
Now, everywhere on every corner, a Greek restaurant awaits. I could choose from at least half a dozen within a few miles of my Houston home, but I often attend the same one, a chain store offering both Greek and Turkish cuisine that in some ways perfectly overlap in flavor and texture. I am okay with their kabobs and pistachio covered desserts, the array of hot vegetables and the pita bread. But, for various reasons, the Greek salad comes out limp, without a fresh and crunchy texture, so I have to eat that in another place down the road. Now that I am an old lady and completely deserving of something special, I can't have my salad with my fish. But I'm not complaining. I am happy with my memories of my Greek places. I love them.