As the weather turns cooler, our thoughts may turn to dreams of Mediterranean clear blue seas and sunshine. However, if a trip to Greece isn’t in your budget, you can get a taste of those authentic, old world flavors right here in the Circle City at Hellas Café.
Hellas is centrally located in Nora, just south of 86th Street. It looks like it’s been there forever because it has. Established in 1986, it was originally a bakery, opened by Alex and Effie Konduris. The restaurant has changed hands through the Konduris family several times, and is now under the ownership of yet another Effie Konduris, the granddaughter of the original owners, who has been at the helm for the last twelve years.
The cozy restaurant feels like a family spot as soon as you walk in the door and the aromas coming from the kitchen are heavenly—garlic, lemon, cinnamon, and of course, lamb. The wait staff is friendly and welcoming, and a large overhead screen scrolls beautiful photos of Greece; fishing boats, rolling country sides and charming villages with terra cotta roofs and bougainvillea.
You absolutely must start your meal with soup, and the Avgolemeno is divine– a perfectly balanced, creamy lemon and chicken soup with orzo and egg that could cure anything that ails you. The earthy and hearty Lentil Soup is a nice choice too, but filling enough to be a meal in itself. And if you’re feeling like an “Opa!” the waiters will cheerfully serve Saganaki; gooey, yummy flaming cheese.
Gyros are a given, and these are served with a deliciously tangy, house-made Tzatziki and warm, soft, freshly grilled pita bread. But you should branch out and try some other traditional Greek dishes, such as the Pastichio (in essence a Greek lasagna with a rich béchamel sauce,) and the Tyropita (lovely spinach and feta pastries.) There are also loads of seafood and vegetarian options, as well as a nice selection of entrees like Pork Chops, Ribeye, Lamb Chops and Filet Mignon.
“My menu features truly authentic family recipes, but I like to get creative with the daily specials,” said Konduris. “Customers love the Parmesan Crusted Grouper, Chilean Sea Bass and Braised Lamb Shank.”
Konduris learned to cook in her family’s kitchen, but her cooking style has been informed by extensive travel and she’s always keeping an eye on current culinary trends. She is young (from her appearance, you might guess that she bought the restaurant while she was in grade school,) enthusiastic and passionate about great food and service.
No matter how much Saganaki you ate at the start of your meal, you can’t leave without Baklava, and theirs is divine—delicate layers of phyllo, laden with cashews, walnuts, peanuts and honey, and redolent with orange, clove and lemon. The warm rice pudding is also a delight, creamy and rich with cinnamon and Haitian vanilla.
There’s a full bar available and a small beer and wine list. Kids eat free on Tuesday nights and they always have live music on Friday and Saturday nights. Hella’s also has a full service catering department, so you might consider “going Greek” for your Christmas party this year. If you’d rather party there, they have a semi-private room for groups of 20 or less, or you can rent out the whole place for groups of 90-100. Hella’s is participating in Northside Nights, so September 21-October 4 would be a great time to try it!
8501 Westfield Blvd, Indianapolis
Lunch and Dinner Monday-Saturday; Sunday: Dinner only