It's Greek to Us
But at Santorini's Greek and Mediterranean Cuisine in Las Cruces, that's a good thing.
By Jeff Berg
Photo by Michael Walsh
If I had to do a one-word review of this small but pleasant café, I would need to say only "yum."
A fairly new kid in the oft-changing world of non-chain restaurants in Las Cruces, Santorini's offers an eclectic blend of Greek and Mediterranean dishes. I've been there several times over the past year, and recently returned for lunch with my carnivorous friends, Mike and Jodi Walsh.
The set-up is basic — the standard small restaurant tables and chairs — but a recent paint job and some remodeling have made the place much more inviting. Santorini's continues the curious trend of many restaurants in Las Cruces by having a huge-screen television (as opposed to a big screen) mounted near the ceiling by the front door. But this TV is a bit more interesting, since it is usually tuned to what I would have to call a Mideast version of MTV. The screen is filled with sultry lasses crooning sad or happy love songs, or dapper young men with the same emotion in mind and on their lips.
But glancing at the screen ended when the menu arrived. (It's the same for lunch and dinner.) We found classic Greek dishes: gyros with different meats, such as lamb or chicken, hummus with pita and of course a couple of different sizes of Greek salads — lettuce, tomato, cukes, feta cheese, spices, onions, Kalamata olives and dressing. There are also sampler plates and a few terms new or forgotten to me, such as keftedes (grilled ground beef with spices and gyro type accouterments on a pita) and a pork shawarma, which is pork tenderloin that has been marinated in spices and vinegar, served on a pita with lettuce, tomato and onion. Vegetarian options, to my delight, are numerous.
The Walshes ordered a falafel sandwich and a chicken gyro, with the agreed-upon statement that they would share. My lovely wife also opted for a falafel sandwich — bemoaning, before eating this one at Santorini's, the lack of good falafel in our fair city.
I had something I had happily inhaled before here, a feta sandwich. This is similar to a vegetarian gyro — a pita bread stuffed full of crispy tomatoes, fresh cucumber, a bit of lettuce, olives and spices, plua a generous amount of my favorite cheese of the moment, a fresh and tangy feta. I again made it all gone, along with the side salad that came with the meal — one of several side choices, none of which are deep fried or refried.
The Walshes promptly forgot their pledge to share. Jodi did offer that her gyro was very good, a bit tart, but that is to be expected from the spices — and that she would like to come back for breakfast, which has just been added to Santorini's list of things that they do. Her attempt to order a wonderful-sounding spinach omelet had been frustrated by the fact that breakfast hours were over.
Michael and my wife both remarked that their falafel sandwiches were very good as well — moist and delicious, not dry and hard like other local offerings.
The place was busy and noisy during the weekday lunch, even though classes at NMSU were over for the summer. Santorini's location on University Avenue allows it to lure students, staff and faculty from the campus, which is directly across the street.
Service was pleasant and prompt; the lone young woman server knew her stuff and kept all of the customers happy. Lunch for two was around $12.
In addition to adding breakfast to its repertoire, Santorini's also offers catering and is now offering delivery service with eight miles of the café. There is a charge for that, but not enough to make me not think about moving closer to town.
Santorini's Greek and Mediterranean Cuisine, 1001 E. University Ave., St. D2, Las Cruces, 521-9270, santorinitherestaurant.com (Don't miss the online photo menu that includes some scared-looking student about to try and eat what might be the world's largest gyro!)
Senior writer Jeff Berg eats his fill in Las Cruces.