Friday, March 2, 2012

Mad Greek Deli

(Please also read Part 2 -- April 2012)

Mad Greek Deli has two locations in Portland: the original spot in Rock Creek (NW West Union Road) and their newest location on E Burnside.

Mad Greek Deli opened in 1977. Today, Pondo Kosmas and his wife, Lori, have blessed Portland with delicious Greek and Greek-inspired cuisine. Pondo's father, Foti, ran Foti's Greek Deli at the same Burnside location until retiring at the end of 2011. Pondo quickly built a second Mad Greek Deli in its place.

The Foti's sign was still up at the Burnside location in February 2012

I stepped inside the ever-busy Burnside location on a Saturday afternoon. Geez, between lunch and dinner hours, and it's still buzzing. Gotta be real good. I can only imagine what the Rock Creek location is like.

The Mad Greek Sandwich ($7.95) is the signature sandwich, an 8" hulk that probably ate some kiddie-sized sandwiches for lunch. Four meats (turkey, ham, salami, and pepperoni), three cheeses (Swiss, provolone, and cheddar), shredded lettuce, sliced tomato, and oil/vinegar on a hearty sesame seed roll. Lori weighed the sandwich for me. That little beast is almost two freakin' pounds.

Menu cover
(February 2012)

8" Mad Greek sandwich
Container of omega sauce in front
Proof that sandwich is 8" long
Even though people claim the Mad Greek sandwich must be longer (especially with the camera angles on the pictures), I can confirm one regular sandwich is eight inches long and the Mad Greek challenge sandwich (see below) is 24 inches.

But wow. Despite its intimidating size, the Mad Greek sandwich is filled with pleasant, refreshing flavors. I might not be the biggest "cold sandwich" lover on the planet, but I would love to have this one again. The cross-section by itself is beautiful to look at. Being able to see all those meaty and cheesy layers, then the colorful lettuce and tomato. The bread walks the ideal line: soft for pleasant eating, firm enough to contain all the abundant fillings. The toasted sesame seeds and fresh-baked aura leave me wanting more. Cue my angelic singers!

I couldn't leave without trying the Greek fries. They're not French fries, Jo-Jos, or spuds! These were some substantial wedges, people. You know those skinny French fries at your local fast food chain? The Greek fries would be some long-lost cousin who lives in a gym, eats a zillion grams of protein, and otherwise pumps iron 24 hours a day. So using this theory, if I eat these fries, I should also grow big and strong!

Greek Fries
(Mad Greek Deli)
This is a SMALL order?
I shudder to think what the large order is like....
I asked for a small order ($2.60), and I swear I got roughly a pound of Greek fries, although I might be wrong on that. These mega potatoes may be intimidating, but are actually soft with subtle happy flavors. I love that the seasonings merely accentuate these fries. I've often seen added flavors or sauces upstage the starch. Here, I'm reminded the potatoes are the star.

The Omega sauce is amazing. While it goes well with the fries, I couldn't resist putting it on the Mad Greek Sandwich as well. This special sauce includes feta cheese, mayonnaise, oregano, and some other secret spices. I thought it closely resembled a slightly thicker Caesar dressing.

Lori said all desserts are handmade, and she allowed me to sample their Grand Marnier baklava. How does that reaction go again? Oh. Em. Gee.

Grand Marnier Baklava
(Mad Greek Deli)
Hand-layered fillo dough, walnuts, sugar cinnamon, honey, and Grand Marnier. Absolutely sublime. You can see all the individual layers. Even when eating this treat, I could still detect and appreciate every square centimeter.At the bottom, you're greeted with that ideal sweet, nutty combination that could get your grandma to start randomly dancing in the street. Yeah, I'd join in, too.

And can you put away a ton of food? Mad Greek Deli's "Mad Greek Progressive Challenge" would be for you. The challenger has one hour to eat a 24" Mad Greek Sandwich (that would be THREE of the regular Mad Greek sandwiches), a pound of Greek fries, and a 32 oz. soda (Lori said it must be soda pop). It costs $30 to take the challenge. For every unsuccessful attempt, half the cost ($15) goes into a pot. The winner gets whatever money was in the pot at the time. Two winners as of February 26, 2012. Lori said both were quite skinny guys. The current pot is about $380, and one of the past winners got over $700. You'll have to take down about 8-9 pounds of food, but at least it's delicious!

Lori (wife of owner Pondo Kosmas) holds up the 24" loaf
for the Mad Greek Progressive Challenge
There are so many dishes I want to try, but this was a great introduction. I will definitely be back! Head to Mad Greek Deli ASAP!

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