Stefanos – Upstairs, Downstairs
We used to eat at Stefanos many years ago and fondly recalled the great Greek fare that we had back then. The problem is that we never found our way back here for such a long time. It’s not for lack of trying though… within the last year, we tried to come here for lunch at least twice and the restaurant was closed on both occasions.
Sometimes when we showed up to Stefanos and found out that they were closed, we wound up eating at the Greek restaurant across the street (Taverna Greka).
During a visit during a weekday lunch, I tried the Moussaka ($13) which has always been a favourite of mine. Layers of potato, eggplant, zucchini and meat sauce topped with bechamel sauce… what could be wrong with that? Your meal is also served with rice and baked potato and Greek salad. To be honest, I didn’t think that the moussaka was as good as I remembered it to be. It’s not that it was bad… it’s just that I remember it tasting creamier before.
We came by for lunch on a weekend recently and parked in the back (instead of paying for street parking on Columbia) and found out that the upstairs dining room was closed but the downstairs lounge/bar was open. The difference between the upstairs and downstairs at Stefanos is like night and day. Upstairs, there’s plenty of space and their decor hasn’t changed much over the years. Downstairs in the bar, things look a bit more relaxed and shiny… the space is smaller with roughly 8 tables (and 7 flat screen tvs).
The dude in the white stoner hat in the above picture was furiously banging his hands on the table to the beat of the music playing in the bar… a bit annoying but we laughed it off.
On the weekend, they also serve brunch dishes like bennys but I was more in the mood for classic Greek dishes so we decided to try the Moussaka again and see if my last lunch experience was a one-off. As it turns out it wasn’t… I truly think that the Moussaka was much better here before (but I suppose time plays tricks on the memory). Perhaps it was the bechamel sauce.
The pita bread that they brought out was qutie well done though… served hot and fresh, it had a bit of a crisp coating while the inside of the pita was soft.
We also ordered some classic Greek appetizers off of their lounge menu: Saganaki – a Greek cheese that’s pan-fried and served with lemon, and Kalamari. The appies on the lounge menu are $10 each (or cheaper during appy hour from 3-6pm).
There’s plenty of oil in the saganaki pan so it’s not for people squeamish about greasy food. I actually do like the saganaki as it has a distinctive taste to it but you have to make sure you eat it while it’s hot… if you leave it for too long, it’ll cool down and turn into a big block of chewy cheese.
The kalamari is pretty good too – I like the fact that they have plenty of diced onions to go along with the squid. Personally, I would prefer if they had a mix of tentacles and rings instead of just rings but that’s just me.
Our server was pretty friendly although it took a while for our food to arrive… I’m guessing that the food is cooked upstairs and they have to run up and down the stairs to deliver dishes.
In reality, besides the food, you would hardly notice that the upstairs restaurant and the downstairs pub were the same restaurant.
If you didn’t know, they do have free parking in the back but it’s difficult to get to from Columbia Street. Instead, head East on Royal Avenue until you get to Merrivale (1 block past 4th) and make a right. Go all the way down until you reach the Skytrain tracks and turn right on Clarkson (which is a 1-way street). Presto… plus, the restaurant parking lot is the same level as the restaurant so you don’t need to walk up the stairs from Columbia.
315 Columbia Street
New Westminster, BC