The Are Two Kinds of People
If you’ve ever seen the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding, you may know a few things about Greeks: they love family, they love food, and they always have a good time.
And according to Gus Portokalos, “There are two kinds of people – Greeks, and everyone else who wish they was Greek.”
Once a year, you too can be Greek for the day at the Yiasou Greek Festival at the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral. This last weekend, Charlotteans flocked to the church to celebrate the city’s 38th Greek gathering.
I moved to the Queen City last November, barely missing the 2014 festival – and I’ve been counting down to September ever since. I grew up in the Greek Orthodox Church and spent my life frequenting festivals in Greenville and Columbia, SC. Needless to say, the Charlotte Greek Festival holds a special place in my heart, and I can bet it holds one in yours, too.
Held Thursday-Sunday, the Yiasou Greek Festival of Charlotte is the perfect weekend activity for absolutely everyone. Young children will have a blast jumping in the moon bounce or repeatedly riding the Ferris wheel. While the kids are at play, adults can check out the various vendors, selling things like scenic artwork, books, jewelry, and imported items from Greece.
Must-sees are the traditional Greek dances performed by members of the church. In the Greek culture, dancing is a part of every celebration, from weddings to baptisms to basically any family gathering. If you’re feeling bold, ask to join in – they’d love to teach you a thing or two!
The Food We Can't Live Without
Alas, the bulk of my (and probably everyone else’s) excitement comes from one thing: the food. Sure, Charlotte has its fair share of great Greek restaurants, but there’s something wonderful to be said of Greek cuisine made at a Greek festival.
As a rule of thumb, I never order just one item. If I could, I’d order it ALL, but for my stomach’s sake, I did make a few selective choices. The gyro, which consists of lamb, tomatoes, onions, and tzatziki wrapped in fresh pita bread, was tender, juicy, and delicious. We paired that with“Greek Fries,” which were thick-cut potatoes topped with flavorful Greek seasoning. From the inside dining area, we ordered the baked chicken plate, which included dolmades (ground beef and rice wrapped in grape leaves) and spanakopita (feta cheese and spinach baked in phyllo dough). All authentic and amazing.
For sweet-lovers, the desserts will be calling your name. Try the loukoumades - warm Greek donuts topped with honey, cinnamon, and sugar. Your life will never be the same. Traditional Greek pastries, such as baklava and koulouria, are also available, but for the less adventurous, the baklava sundae is an excellent choice. The pastries are available to take home, so feel free to load up on your favorites.
If you missed this year’s festival, mark your calendars right now and plan to go next September. The Greeks of Charlotte will be waiting to welcome you with open arms full of love, fun, and gyros.
(Looking to get Greek year-round? I recently visited the Mad Greek Cafe on South Boulevard and discovered some of the best Greek food I’ve ever had – and that says a lot! Give it a try next time you’re craving authentic Greek eats. Opa!