Posts Tagged Leo’s Greek Castle
Monthly Feature, By Becca Bona and Kevin Shalin
Becca and Kevin will check out a local restaurant, each at different times, and then write separate reviews. This month, it’s Leo’s Greek Castle.
Leo’s is that place you take your out-of-town-friend to when you’re trying to enjoy Hillcrest and all the neighborhood has to offer. Maybe you stop in for lunch, planning to enjoy the coveted patio, or you make dinner plans, knowing you will take full advantage of the $0.75 PBR. Either way, you know you’re getting a bit of a hole-in-the-wall vibe that comes with the food your cravings are made of.
Food-wise, Leo’s isn’t exactly a front, as in, it’s not an authentic Grecian restaurant. Think more street-food, diner-esque – delectably greasy but completely satisfying.
I stopped in on a slow Monday night for dinner, and I had my mind made up on at least two of the three items I would order: The Leo Burger and the Gyros Sandwich.
The Leo’s Burger is an unexpected gem, as in, it’s a serious underrated dish in the Rock. You get a chargrilled 10 oz. burger with American cheese and all the fixings – (which is a lot – so bring your appetite), all for less than $10. This dish embodies all the nostalgic goodness of a grilled burger from a family gathering while repping that diner vibe. Likely, it’s exactly what the doctor ordered for your hair-of-the-dog.
On to the Gyros. There are plenty of places in Rock City where you can get a decent Gyros Sandwich with lamb, but Leo’s stands out. It’s hard not to drool a bit when you’re biting into the meat, as it’s so juicy. Everything else is decent, but the lamb is the true star of the dish.
To round everything out, I decided I would try the Sampler Platter from the appetizers list. The hummus is alright and the dolmas are even better, but the place actually packs a punch with their baba ghannouj – which I was pleasantly surprised by.
Ultimately, I’ll visit Leo’s again and again. They take all the American goodness of a homey diner and throw in Grecian influences. Leo’s might be Hillcrest’s most underrated neighborhood hang – especially when you consider the quality of their breakfast offerings (which deserves its own post), coveted patio, and $0.75 PBR.
It’s probably been a few years since my last Leo’s visit, and quite frankly, that’s a shame because I remember the food being pretty good. But before I delve into the culinary aspect of my most recent visit, let me touch on the actual restaurant itself. It’s one notch above being a complete shit hole, but, that said, it’s an important notch. I love places with a ton of character and Leo’s has just that. Parking is at a minimum, as is outdoor and indoor seating, but one step inside and I can’t help but feel the place has that certain something. Anyways … it’s super casual, cozy, and a little quirky, but I like the atmosphere.
Let’s get to the food.
My table of three ordered the onion rings, baba ghannouj appetizer, Leo Burger, Chicken Gyro Sandwich, and Falafel Sandwich. First things first, the onion rings were some of the best I’ve had in town. Thick, beer battered, slightly sweet, and not greasy, these rings were classic and delicious. I literally had to stop myself from eating the entire basket. The baba ghannouj appetizer was solid, but, honestly, I’ve had better in town. It was super creamy, but definitely needed more lemon juice. And while my falafel sandwich with fried chickpea patties, hummus, and veggies wrapped inside some warm pita were all delicious, the star of the table was my daughter’s Leo Burger.
This damn thing is a burger’s burger. It’s greasy, it’s cheesy, and it’s sloppy, but damn if this double thin-patty monstrosity wasn’t absolutely fantastic. No offense to the chicken gyro or the falafel or the baba ghannouj, but the burger and rings stole the show.
We got out of there for about $37 (with tip) which was an excellent value, especially given the amount of food that hit the table. Service was great. I’m kicking myself for letting so much time pass between visits. With a top 5 burger and onion rings in Little Rock, I’ll be returning sooner rather than later.
Leo’s Greek Castle
2925 Kavanaugh Blvd
Hours: Monday-Saturday 7AM-9PM, Sunday 8AM-3PM
Phone: (501) 666-7414
Ever wonder what other foodies are thinking? Me too. Special thanks to Erin for her answers!
1. How many years have you lived in Little Rock? I’ve been here for 5 and a half years.
2. What one Little Rock restaurant has never let you down in terms of food and service? Maddie’s Place. I’ve been a fan of this restaurant ever since they opened. While I don’t get there as often as I would like, the food is consistent and delicious and it’s run by good people. It also happens to be one of the “must see” places to stop when my parents come to town. Not only do they love the food, but we realized early on that they have a bit of history with Chef Brian Deloney. It’s a cool story.
3. What under-the-radar spot would you recommend to a new Little Rock foodie? Personally, I don’t think I’m cool enough to know any under-the-radar spots. If I’ve been to a restaurant, I think that it’s already be noticed and recognized as being great. With that said, I’ll answer this with a restaurant that gets forgotten simply because it’s not in a typical dining destination area. That spot is Natchez. It’s tucked into an office building that is easy to pass by, but once you step in, you wouldn’t know. Chef Alexis is a kind, warm and welcoming restaurateur who is creative in her menu writing while keeping it comfortable. She makes you feel like you are a guest in her own home. Don’t think of downtown just as where you work. There is great food there! By the way, if you visit and see a shrimp or gnocchi dish on her menu, you’d be silly to miss either.
4. What are a few of your guilty food pleasure items? Smartfood Popcorn (I’ll take it over a bag of chips any day), an Egg McMuffin, white cheese dip and homemade Linguine and White Clam Sauce. My dad and I have been making this dish together for years. We first got the recipe out of a Junior League cookbook and it evolved and improved as our food knowledge grew. The tradition started because my mom was traveling a lot with her job so the two of us spent a lot of time menu planning and cooking together during my middle and high school years.
5. Where can the absolute best dessert in town be found? I tend to not order dessert while dining out, but I often spring for it at Trio’s. While they stock a pretty amazing dessert tray full of homemade treats, it’s their Strawberry Shortcake that I can’t turn down. Arkansas strawberries, homemade shortbread and fresh whipped cream…can’t go wrong! If I’m out and about and need a sweet treat, my go-to orders would be a chocolate chunk cookie from Community Bakery, a lemon bar at Jimmy’s Serious Sandwiches or an iced sugar cookie at Sweet Love Bakes.
6. What is the craziest thing you’ve done related to food? As far as eating weird things, I’ve not done anything really crazy. While living in Cairo I probably ate camel (it’s inevitable there) and intentionally ordered hot dog & calamari on my Pizza Hut. But the craziest thing I’ve done related to food also happens to be one of the messiest. A good friend hosted a party to help me raise funds for a charity walk I was participating in. Her cats had been locked up in a room all day away from the party so we were tidying up the kitchen before we went to bed so they could have free reign of the house again. Well, all was going well until I picked up the chocolate fountain. As I was rounded the corner to the laundry room (where we were going to stash it) it began to wobble on the tray I was holding. Pretty much went downhill from there, literally. Chocolate went everywhere. Down the front of me, on the floor, on the wall, pretty much ruined the new shoes I was wearing. But we laughed so very hard and we ended up meeting my fundraising goal that night!
7. How would you describe the Little Rock food scene? This is an interesting question. I know many diners are not satisfied with our current options and wish that restaurants would go for it and take risks. But a lot of people are satisfied with the options we have and love the old standards. So who am I to judge what they deem as “good”? That is an individual decision. With that said, I would describe our food scene as “proud”. Our local restaurants have a lot of pride in the use of ingredients from local farms, pride in creating dishes that share their idea of comfort and culture with us and a lot of pride in making some of Little Rock’s most beloved dishes, even if they’ve been around for half a century.
8. If you could jump in a plane this very second…where would you go and what would you eat? I’m of course torn between nostalgic memories of food and a big adventure. At this point, I think my heart will win. I’d fly to my hometown (I have a few of them) of LeRoy, NY and eat Beef on Weck, Pizza Land pizza, wings and fried dough, fresh corn on the cob from McKenzie’s farm (purchased at the unmanned road-side stand that runs on the honor system), salt potatoes, Perry’s ice cream and a Friday night Fish Fry dinner at the LB Grand. And then I wouldn’t eat for a week!
9. What restaurant would people be surprised you’ve never dined at? This is a tough one. I’ve been to a lot of places once, often because a friend says “I can’t believe you haven’t been, we have to go”. Still, some may be surprised that I haven’t made it to Leo’s Greek Castle. I love breakfast, perhaps more than any other meal, but somehow I just haven’t made it there. I’m happy to hear the new owners are doing a great job and am going to try to get there soon.
10. What food celebrity would you like to have dinner with? Lee Anne Wong. I first “met” her when she was a contestant on Top Chef and I’ve continued to be a fan ever since. She loves food, is incredibly knowledgeable and, I imagine, full of a ton of stories from her work and travels. She seems pretty laid back too, so I think she’d be a lot of fun to share a meal with.
Please go follow Erin on Twitter!