Opa! chef-owner Paul Barbas admits the perennially popular gyro will always be the dish that keeps the lights on, but let him fix you a Greek dinner proper. He left the lemon groves of a small village outside Macedonia at age two with his parents, who started as dishwashers in a Detroit barbecue restaurant and eventually opened a restaurant of their own. The Barbas clan’s cooking chops continue on in T.C., with skillets of florines piperies (house-roasted red peppers with a delicate, herbed ricotta-and-feta filling) and moussaka, subtly seasoned with cinnamon, nutmeg and red wine and baked with kefalograviera cheese that crisps on the edges.
Barbas rotates specials such as lamb shank with Ionian sauce and desserts like the farina-flour based and simple-syrup soused revani cake with strawberries. There is always orange-scented baklava. Get it with a demitasse of rich Greek coffee, served sweet with a glass of ice water.
For those craving ethnic authenticity, know that Barbas’s 100-percent Polish wife Brigette (their wedding had 300 people, a Greek and a Polish band) put her homemade pierogies on the menu. 1752 S. Garfield Ave. (Cherryland Center), Traverse City, 231-947-6721, opagrill.com
Find more great Up North eats in our Dining Guide!