Greek food isn’t all baklava and gyros, as visitors to this year’s Greek Fest will discover.
“We did some different things,” said Johnny Mangouras, chairman and chief chef of the annual festival.
The changes were necessitated in part by a construction project at Holy Anargyroi Greek Orthodox Church, which hosts the festival. The former church building has been torn down, and in its place will rise a new church social hall, with classrooms, meeting rooms and offices.
Unfortunately, the church’s kitchen was located in the building. Mangouras was able to secure use of the kitchen at nearby Calvary Episcopal Church for some food preparation but still was forced to revise his menu. “We can’t do roast lamb,” he said.
Instead, he is preparing a Greek burger, which is grilled angus beef topped with feta cheese and tzatziki sauce and served on a pretzel bun. Mangouras also will offer traditional Greek garlic lemon chicken wings and roasted baby red potatoes with lemon gravy, among other items.
And don’t forget the baklava for dessert. “We sell probably 3,500 to 4,000 pieces,” Mangouras said. “It’s our second-best seller.”
That put baklava right behind gyros. “We sell a lot of gyros, about 4,600 to 5,000,” he said.
The menu also includes Greek fries (topped with feta and seasoning), calamari, Greek salad, tyropitakia (creamy feta cheese-egg mixture wrapped in buttered phyllo), koulouria (a sweet butter cookie) and a dozen other dishes.
For comfort while consuming all these treats, a large tent will be erected to provide cover from sun or rain.
Difficult as it is to believe, food isn’t the only attraction at GreekFest. There are tours of the church, exhibits and performances by the Greek Dancers of Minnesota. The dance group was founded in 1996 and performs in authentic costumes from different regions of Greece and Cyprus.
Because of the ongoing construction on church property, nearly the entire festival will take place on West Center Street in front of the church. Unlike a rival Greek festival, which will be held in September on the Peace Plaza, what is now billed as the Original Rochester GreekFest will continue to be held in the church’s neighborhood, Mangouras said.
“This is a big thing for us,” he said. “Our church would not be what it is or where it is, would not have this festival, without our local community. We’re going to put the entire festival on in the street, and that’s probably the way we’re going to set up from now on.”
Money raised at the festival helps fund two hospitality houses on the church grounds, where people of any faith may stay for extended periods while undergoing treatment at Mayo Clinic.