by Alice Levitt
3 Southerberry Drive, Milton 893-3313
I miss diners. Real diners. Greek diners. I'm from the New York area, and our Vermont burger shacks, run by folks with French or English last names, just don't cut it when I'm truly in the mood for a diner experience. I missed the shiny, silver buildings that I was used to, as well. The metal monoliths have always colored my memories of grabbing a great breakfast or plate of pastitsio at one of my hometown favorites. That is, until I stepped into the Apollo Diner's gleaming embrace this weekend.
You don't expect to see a giant, metallic building in Milton, which makes the first sight of the pink and blue-edged box even more exciting. Inside, the first thing you see is a dessert case filled with huge pies, also as it should be. I was home.
Our server had to be the youngest woman I've ever seen in a diner waitress dress, but the restaurant is new and I suppose she'll age into it eventually. Though my beloved pastitsio (according to my mother, the first solid food I ever ate, and still one of my favorites) is only available occasionally as a special, there is always moussaka. To cast a wider Greek net, I ordered a combination plate.
I was particularly excited to try the sizable square of spanakopita on my huge plate. It looked so buttery, so light. Unfortunately, it was also powdery, likely the result of a pile-up of flour on the brush used to apply the butter to the phyllo wrapping the spinach pie. The inside could have used a bit more flavor, but I greatly appreciated the big chunks of feta that added a nice, salty tang.
The skewers of pork souvlaki were strangely flattened. From their appearance, I was afraid they would be dried out. In fact, they were juicy and nicely seasoned, though their flavor greatly benefited from the addition of zippy tzatziki sauce, filled with the teeniest squares of cucumber I've ever seen. I loved wrapping the meat and sauce in warm, soft sections of pita. Best of all was the Greek salad. The acidic dressing was as much herb as oil. Oregano all but sang as it lay across more feta, lettuce leaves and juicy chunks of tomato.
The french toast had a hint of vanilla, which paired nicely with the real, and rather intense, maple syrup that comes free with all breakfasts. I was also a fan of the sausages. Most diners offer frozen patties which do not vary at all from restaurant to restaurant. These were visibly different, enough so that I suspect they might even be made-in house. They were extraordinarily heavy on the sage, one of my favorite herbs, and nicely spiced. I just wish there had been more!
Have I found my Greek diner fantasy in Vermont? I've come close. The Greek meal I tried did not achieve the level of perfection I was hoping for, though I did enjoy it. Breakfast came closer to the mark. Next time, I'll try the hot turkey sandwich, another of my childhood staples. I hear they roast several local turkeys a day at the Apollo, just to supply the one dish. Sounds promising...