For Weekly SurgeOctober 15, 2013 

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    Opa! is at 815 Surfside Dr. in Surfside Beach, and the number is 808-9887. It's open from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays.

Setting the Table

Opa! Greek restaurant opened in April in Surfside Beach, and now with six months of operation under its belt I would have expected the amenities and food quality to be more impressive.

I would make a return visit to Asimakis and Christos Georgakopoulis’ restaurant that’s located on Surfside Drive where Charleston Café was a local landmark for more than 20 years, but I hope they soon make adjustments that would enhance their food quality and customer service.

The décor has not dramatically changed since it was Charleston Café. Booths and tables are in a room by large street-facing windows, and farther back in a long and narrow room are more booths with dimmer lighting. The main accent color is the blue of the Greek flag.

Locals who remember the lively upstairs lounge at Charleston Café will have to wait for its reopening, because the large space is undergoing remodeling. My server said there is no projected date for its completion. Customers are also still waiting for the restaurant to have a Web site and Facebook page.

Down the Hatch

If for nothing else, I would return to Opa! for the tzatziki sauce, which is the traditional cold yogurt/cucumber/garlic sauce served with pita as an appetizer and on gyros. Opa!’s version is thick and chunky with garlic, which gives it a vibrant flavor spike. It came with our meals as a side dish along with pita, but the sauce can be ordered separately for $1.50. A side of pita is $1.

I had stuffed grape leaves (a.k.a. dolmades) for my appetizer, and they were OK. The leaves were tender, but the filling was mostly rice. I couldn’t detect any pine nuts, fennel, onion, garlic, currants or cumin that are normally used in recipe variations. For $8, I received seven dolmades on a bed of iceberg lettuce with one Roma tomato slice, one cucumber slice and one Kalamata olive.

Other appetizers ($8-$9) include fried Greek cheese, fried calamari, feta cheese with olives, fried spanakopita, falafel, hummus and chicken tenders.

Greek salad ($10) comes dressed in a tangy vinegar/oil dressing, and a friend highly recommends the avgolemono (egg-lemon-chicken-pasta) soup for $4.

Opa! has several American dishes on its menu such as burgers and wraps for $8 each, Maryland style crab cakes for $14 and Cajun chicken or shrimp with pasta for $12-$14, but we wanted the Greek experience.

The gyro platter is $12 and is served with yellow rice or fries, while the gyro sandwich is $8. Marinated pork cubes called souvlaki can also come as a sandwich or platter, and you can choose chicken instead of pork.

My husband went with one of the day’s specials: Aegean stuffed salmon with rice, for $14. It came with pita and tzatziki, a dressed Greek salad, chopped asparagus and yellow rice. The stuffing part of the entrée was a topping of crab and shrimp, which were finely chopped, and the Mr. said it was “…OK but nothing special.”

I had pastichio, which is a pasta/hamburger/béchamel/marinara casserole, and while the dish wasn’t unpleasant, the chef skimped on ingredients. The amount of meat and béchamel was minimal. My meal came with the same side dishes as my husband’s, and we both wonder why the asparagus was chopped up.

Next time I’ll try the mousaka ($13) and check out its meat-to-veggies ratio.

Check, please

Children have four special $5 meal choices of chicken tenders, gyro, pasta and mozzarella triangles, and they come with fries and a drink.

There is no written wine list, but the server quickly described a handful of beer and wine choices. I went with a glass of the Greek red, and it wasn’t awful. Our meal of one appetizer, two entrees and one glass of wine came to $45.15.

Opa! is a Greek term that expresses happiness about life. A comparable southern term might be “Yeehaw!” Now that the busy season is over, hopefully the staff will put a little more excitement into Opa!’s offerings.

Becky Billingsley serves up fresh news daily at MyrtleBeachRestaurantNews.com.

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