Gardens of Salonica: Greek Recipes with MN Ingredients

Jason and Joy revisit the Mediterranean family favorite

Each month, in our Restaurants Revisited conversation, MnMo food critics Jason DeRusha and Joy Summers return to an “old favorite” restaurant and assess how it’s faring.

Joy: I love the sound of footfalls on the wood floors as you walk into this historic, art-filled space that transports diners to the Mediterranean. Gardens of Salonica always feels sunny and inviting, even on gray, dark days.

Jason: Gardens is a favorite for my family. The appetizers are sharable and approachable so we always do a combination plate and pile pipperies (red peppers roasted in house), anginares (artichoke hearts), and fava bean dip onto pita. 

Joy: I love the spread combinations: tyro, skordalia, and melitzana (spicy feta cheese, a garlic/potato blend, and roasted, puréed eggplant, respectively). The dips are alternately salty, cheesy, creamy, and rich. It’s easy to make a meal out of an array of the small plates.

Jason: Chef/owner Anna Christoforides uses many local, organic ingredients enhanced with a bright, generous pop of fresh lemon juice. The pastitsio is a beautiful Greek lasagna, with layers of pasta, beef, and a creamy béchamel sauce. Also: If you go on the weekend, get the in-house gyro special. On Fridays and Saturdays the restaurant makes its own gyro meat and it is incredible. When we visited, they were serving an expertly seasoned chicken version.

Offerings at Salonica

Photo by TJ Turner

Joy: Hands down, it’s the best gyro in town. We also ordered the pastitsio and holy hearty! It’s full-on sweater-weather food. I love a dish that utilizes every possible dairy option.

Jason: One ambiance issue: There’s a computer monitor that looks like it’s from the mid-1990s displaying fuzzy, low-resolution photos from various trips to Greece. Ditch it. It’s distracting and gives a cheap feel to an otherwise wonderful restaurant.

Joy: And the acoustics can be a bit… boisterous at night. During daytime, the mood is much calmer. But these are just quibbles. Year after year, this is one of my favorite restaurants to revisit. And I always save room for baklava: My love is a flaky, honeyed affair.

Gardens of Salonica Quick Tips:

Behind the bar: Beer and wine with several Greek varieties, including the pine resin–tinged Retsina

Parking: A lot of meters and a small pay lot nearby

Can’t miss dish: Friday and Saturday night gyros

19 Fifth St. NE, Minneapolis, 612-378-0611,