Greek traditions shine at Macedonia (New Reviewer)

Is it time to depart from the well-trodden culinary path? Macedonia Greek Cuisine, located in Salem’s downtown Reed Opera House, has been delighting Salem residents in the know for years. Advertised as family-owned and operated, and the only authentic Greek cuisine in town, Macedonia is tucked in the first floor, toward the back, of the Reed Opera House.

Arriving on a Friday night, we were seated immediately in the quiet dining room. The walls are decorated with photos of various locations in Greece, particularly some lovely islands. Our first order of business was an appetizer plate to sample two different types of dips: a traditional hummus (ground garbanzos, tahini, garlic, and lemon juice) and a melitzanosalata, which tasted similar but is based on eggplant. Pepperoncini, tomatoes, two cubes of feta, cucumbers, and dolmades (grape leaves stuffed with rice, herbs, and meat) all came on this plate, plus two pitas. Appetizer options included each of these items, tsatiki (a dip of yogurt, cucumber, and garlic), and other options, ranging from $5-10.

Our appetizers appeared quickly. The pitas were fluffy, warm, and tasty enough that we would have happily eaten them without the dips—but the dips were delicious! We ran out of pita and started using the veggies to dip, but our pitas were graciously replenished without the stated charge. We agreed that the hummus was good, but the melitzanosalata was more interestingly flavored, and new to our palates. The feta was intensely flavored but not overpowering, and tasted very fresh. The dolmades were interesting and seasoned well, but were not as tempting as the other items, being very differently textured. Our server was attentive, helpful, friendly, and unfailingly polite. This appetizer was easily large enough for four adults.

Macedonia’s menu boasts an array of traditional dishes including kabobs of lamb or chicken, meatballs, roast lamb, moussaka (eggplant, potatoes, and meat layered with a béchamel sauce), spanakopita (spinach pie in phyllo dough) and more. Entrées range from around $10 to $20. Several combination plate options around $15 offer a variety of traditional dishes with differing sides. There seemed to be a confusing array of sampler options, but vegetarians will appreciate the list of many traditional foods sans meat, including appetizers. The beverage list was short, but does include beers, wines and cocktails, including (of course) ouzo. The sudden appearance of a belly dancer in traditional garb surprised and entertained; the music was a bit loud, but her laps around the dining room were fun to watch and spiced up the evening. Advertisements posted outside advised of her presence on Saturday nights only.

For entrées, we chose the lamb kabobs and a combination plate, intending to share. We did wind up eating some things twice, as we’d just had the sampler appetizer plate, and more pitas showed up with our meal. The lamb kabobs won our taste buds over with rich, juicy flavor. Two kabobs came with the meal; enough for one diner but not enough to split a plate. The Villager’s Plate made a good sampler, including roast lamb, cooked spinach, spanakopita, and potatoes. The roast lamb was moist, but not as flavorful as the kabobs, while the spanakopita was rich in feta and phyllo, with layers of spinach. Herbed, sautéed potatoes that looked ordinary were surprisingly richly seasoned. The cooked spinach, while lemony (and healthy!), didn’t really draw the diner in light of all the other options on the plate. For one diner, the Villager’s Plate is a feast, but the variety avoids overdosing on one dish. Nothing served was spicy, but most foods did have intense flavors.

Feeling virtuous for eating so much spinach and eggplant, we indulged in kataifi. This was suggested by our server as a dessert similar to baklava, with phyllo dough, honey, and nuts, but interestingly described as looking like a large shredded wheat. With our dessert, we partook in Greek coffee, a small potent cup brewed with cardamom imparting a unique and subtle spice. The thick coffee covers a layer of undrinkable sludge at the bottom (as is traditional), and the kataifi was indeed delicious. The shredded phyllo gives it a light feel despite strong honey flavors. A dense baklava and other more pedestrian desserts were also offered, all for under $10.

Overall, Macedonia Greek Cuisine provided very traditional flavors, excellent service, and good value for the price—total of about $40 for two for appetizer, meal, & dessert—and a fun dining experience.
This restaurant was reviewed by Food Fan. Great Job!


Anonymous said...

This place is a real gem. We have dined here the last few years.

If we have someone from out of town, this is the place we try and take them.

The service has never been bad, the food is always good, and lets face it...I can cook Italian, Mexican, American, but Greek, no way! At least not all the goodies they serve at the same time.

Great write up by the way!

Anonymous said...

The place was decently clean, considering the Reed Oprea house is kinda falling apart, cool as it is. The service was friendly, and fairly quick. It was not real busy when my wife and I went, so it may be different when the place is hoppin'.
Food was good, not great, but seemed authentic, and the ingredients were quality and fresh. My wife found that in her opinion Greek food isn't for everybody, but I loved it. the lamb was especially good (Kabob).

Anonymous said...

My friend and I were hungry for some hummus, but I gotta say this was the worst hummus I've ever had and I eat a lot of hummus. The service was good, but the decor was a bit on the tacky side. Pink tablecloths?

Anonymous said...

The decor is a little tacky, but we've tried most of the Greek places in Portland, and this place in little ol' Salem trumps them all. I find them to be a little pricey for such common Greek food, but reasonable compared to the Portland restaurants. It really is a gem and deserves more attention.

Jonathan said...

I went to the Bite of Salem with my In-Laws and wife. We walked in and walked right back out.

We went to Macedonia instead. I am from Cincinnati which is about 1/8 Greek. Some of our most famous restaurants are owned by Greek families (a.k.a. Skyline Chili). This place is authentic. I had a Gyro which was lovely, my wife had the Meatballs which were rich and sweet, and my in-laws both had the Macedonia and Village plates.

The owner waited on us and explained the dishes for my in-laws. I definitely will bring my own parents here when they come in from Cincinnati to visit. They will love it.

They could call it the Taste of Salem if restaurants like Macedonia had booths there. I have to think that Salem is not trying too hard to get family owned restaurants to be a part of the "bite". If their is a committee that recruits vendors sign me up. It's an embarrassing event for the city as it stands.

The city I lived in, in Cincinnati, Blue Ash had 3,000 residents. The Taste of Blue Ash each year has over 20 restaurants and someone like Charlie Daniels band or Reo Speed Wagon headline the event.

Aim high Salem!

Hayley said...

I started going here when they were still at their old location upstairs. The service is amazing and the food is as well. Unfortunately due to food allergies my choices are limited in regards to greek food, but the lemon chicken soup has always been a personal favorite of mine.

Anonymous said...

Went there last night and it was closed for remodeling. Like the rest of the wonderful Reed Opera House, it's being updated. Went to the new Napoleon's instead and it was terrific!

Chuck Bradley said...

I can't figure it! There is one (I've taken the trouble to count them up.) Greek restaurant in our fair city and it's a good one. Why is it struggling? SWMBO and I had lunch there again today, and as usual, we were wowed. Carol had the "Village Plate" and I the "Mediterranean Plate". Lamb Kabob and Greek Salad in hers and Leg of Lamb, Rice and lightly cooked Carrots in mine. Both had Spinach Pie, Stuffed Grape Leaves and Unleavened Bread and Taziki Dip. The meat of both Lamb dishes was incredible. None of that strong Mutton taste so often encountered. I just don't understand why people are not lined up out the door at this place. I hear it's up for sale. I'd hate to see Salem's only Greek place go the way of the Dodo.

Anonymous said...

It's too expensive, the ingredients don't seem fresh, and the decor/ambiance is uncomfortable. The food is OK, but they really need to put more effort into creating a great experience for their customers. I've been twice in 5 years & am not planning to return. I love Greek & Middle-Eastern food, but not they way they're doing it.