BATAVIA — Any self-respecting Greek restaurant will have a great souvlaki. It’s a required staple. It is to Greek dining what burritos are to Mexican and pasta is to Italian.
At Settler’s Family Restaurant, 353 West Main St., the Spyropoulos family knows this. And that’s why the Greek Souvlaki Salad is the cornerstone of the menu, the signature dish of an expansive selection.
In the 30 years since the restaurant opened in the former Red Barn building, the souvlaki salad has been the popular choice among a loyal customer base.
“We opened up our menu by adding some more salads to it,” said John Spyropoulos, sitting over a large chicken souvlaki salad Friday in one of the booths during lunchtime. “The other ones are starting to catch on, but all these years, it’s been this guy right here.”
The salad is straightforward and exactly what one would expect. It’s a bed of greens with bell pepper, onion, tomato, cucumber, olives, and feta cheese. It comes with either chicken or beef.
But then it takes a left turn. The house dressing isn’t a Greek vinaigrette, as one might expect, but a take on tzatziki sauce, a yogurt-based dip made with cucumber and dill. The dressing is the star of the dish, a family recipe passed down from Spyropoulos’ parents, who opened the eatery in 1985.
Another break from tradition is that Settler’s offers a choice of pita or garlic bread with the salad. Both are delicious and made in house, but garlic bread is more likely to be found in an Italian restaurant, not as a side to souvlaki.
“It’s something different,” Spyropoulos said when asked why garlic bread was an option. “It tastes good when you dip it in our Greek dressing. That’s why I like it. It just melts in your mouth.”
While the salad is called a souvlaki, that’s technically incorrect. Souvlaki is meat that is cut into small pieces and grilled on a skewer. The chicken on the salad Spyropoulos served Friday were four large tenders.
“There are shortcuts in restaurants,” he explained. “Instead of putting them on sticks, now most people are using fresh chicken tenders. You don’t have to stand around and skewer the chicken. It takes less time to prepare.”
The shortcut doesn’t diminish the taste at all. The chicken is marinated in a combination of lemon juice, oil, oregano, and garlic for at least 24 hours before cooked on a flattop and finished on a char-broiler. The beef is done the same way, except the marinade has red wine, rather than lemon juice.
“The citrus doesn’t go as well with the beef,” Spyropoulos said.
In a good week, Settler’s will go through 80 pounds of chicken just for the souvlaki. So you know it’s a hit with the customers.
The Greek Souvlaki Salad sells for $7.99 for a small and $8.99 for a large. It comes with chicken or beef and a side of either pita or garlic bread.
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