Aliki's Greek Taverna: Lemon + Potatoes
When we visited Greece at the age of 20, we ate well without spending much. There were nests of fried smelts piled around puddles of skordalia. There was blistered octopus served next to the foil-wrapped brick that once smashed it against the grill's grate. There were yellow loaves of dense-crumbed olive oil bread. There were countless bottles of wine, the most enjoyable of which, naturally, were local blends in tall label-less plastic water bottles.
Cathy N. Lemon potatoes, squeezed in among the gyro and falafel
Over the course of our journey though, one of our favorite dishes came to be the humble taverna stand-by lemon potatoes -- invariably served at room temperature, the fingers of spud soft and inviting, nestled in a pool of oil. Outside of our own kitchen, we've seldom seen them since. Then, two weeks ago, we grabbed a quick bite at Aliki's Greek Taverna after an arrival at LAX.
To say this restaurant is in LAX would be a slight exageration. It's not an escalator away from baggage claim, but it's also not exactly anywhere else. It's a family business, the waiter will be sure to say if you, like many of the customers, want to chat before you order your falafel, calamari, taramosalata, and horiatiki.
The potatoes aren't the main event. They're a side dish, but that does nothing to diminish their bright light. They're not served at room-temperature, but they do possess all the classic hallmarks: a mellow but profuse baked-in lemon flavor, uncrumbly flesh a fork can slice as easily as barbecued brisket, and just enough garlic. The only missing element? A telltale lagoon of greenish-yellow oil at the bottom of the plate after the last bite.