8501 Westfield Blvd, Indianapolis IN 46240
When first peering at this wonderful north side Greek restaurant, one would not expect much of a dining experience given its unassuming appearance and placement in front of a small strip mall south of the Nora shopping district off of Westfield Blvd. Once inside, the atmosphere immediately changes, and this family-run gem transports you to the isles and mainland of its namesake. Owned and staffed by the same family for the last 30 or so years, Hellas Cafe has established itself as one of only a handful of Greek/Mediterranean restaurants in the Indy metropolitan area, and my personal favorite. While Greek Islands downtown is a wonderful restaurant as well, whose fascinating and generous owner I have met through a mutual friend, the closer location of Hellas Cafe simply drew me in more frequently, as it became my go-to spot for Greek fare.
The small entry area contains a hosting stand staffed by a friendly host or hostess, whom I believe is nearly always a member of the family who operates the restaurant. The dining room is somewhat small, with a larger main dining room and a smaller alcove off to the side. It has stucco-like walls adorned with columnar treatment, multiple images of Greece, vases, and carved busts representing Greece’s ancient heritage (disclaimer: as I have a bachelors degree in Ancient Studies from my university’s Classics department, I really dig this kind of atmosphere!). The white paper tablecloths give the kids something to occupy themselves with when crayons make their way to the table, and the spacing, while somewhat tight, is cozy and communal.
Hellas Cafe features a number of wines, both Greek and international, as well as Greek and Cypriot beers, all of which make a great start for your meal. The appetizer list demands attention. In addition to the required table-side combustion of flaming saganaki cheese, they also feature other small dishes (mezze) composed of tasty greek sausages, tangy hommus, as well as an unusual but delicious greek style caviar (taramasalata). Calamari, feta, and tzatziki are also featured, as well as a combination plate with gyro meat included. A couple of Greek soups as well as a standard Greek salad that is included with most meals round out the initial offerings.
The entrees at Hellas Cafe shine, and the menu is quite varied. Grilled kebabs, lamb dishes, Greek-style chicken, and steak are present, all excellent and well prepared. Seafood is also present in limited form. A half-dozen vegetarian dishes bolster the offerings, essentially meatless versions of their traditional Greek selections. Speaking of such, these traditional dishes are where I gravitate to. Mousaka (ground beef, potato, and eggplant in a cream sauce), dolmatha (stuffed grape leaves), spanakopita (spinach and cheese phyllo pie), and pastichio (ground beef, macaroni, and cream sauce) fill the menu along with well prepared gyro meat (if you can’t pronounce it as ‘yeero’ instead of ‘jairo’ you should probably stick with Applebees for dinner). Fortunately for me, Hellas Cafe offers a Combo Platter that contains all of these, a dish I have had a number of times. Side dishes are tasty as well, and include traditional Greek potatoes and green beans, as well rice and even a ‘Athenian’ variant of french fries with feta and Greek dressing available for ala carte order. Entree cost ranges from about 17-30 dollars. Portion sizes are very generous, and 2-3 side dishes are included with the meal.
A decent kid’s menu is present on the menu, with a mix of Greek dishes as well as pizza and chicken fingers for the less adventurous palate.
Baklava and a rice pudding serve as desert offerings (as well as other daily items), and I highly recommend the sticky sweet baklava with a sweet and strong Greek coffee to end the meal, whether you have room or not!
Weekends also bring a belly dancer to mingle among the crowd shimmering to Mediterranean music. The conservative performance entices kids present in the dining room to join the dancer wiggling and snapping the finger cymbals together in light hearted fun.
For a wonderful night of Greek food set in a family atmosphere amongst the trappings of an ancient and sophisticated culture, I suggest heading just west of Keystone to Hellas Cafe. If you are new to Greek food, this is a great north side restaurant to begin your immersion.