By Lynn Venhaus
The skies cleared for some extended periods, Pujols hit his 695th home run, Cardinals swept the Cubs, and the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church Greek Festival was back on the church grounds in the Central West End this Labor Day Weekend!.
This 105th annual tradition is such a fun fest, with good food and fellowship, a community coming together and a cultural celebration with music, dancers, cuisine and families. Tours and a gift shop are available inside the church, which is located at 4967 Forest Park Avenue, St. Louis. It’s been on my radar since I moved to St. Louis the summer of 2015.
Hours are from 5 to 9 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, and from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Monday, rain or shine. Admission is free and there is free parking available in the BJC parking lot off Euclid.
For more information, visit www.opastl.com. There is an online menu and you can see info about their other events throughout the year, mostly at their family life center..
Do not fret about intermittent showers — food is not only served outside under the big Taverna tent in the courtyard (adjacent to Forest Park Avenue), but inside the auditorium too, so you can dig into the yummy food and partake of good cheer anywhere.
There are church tours of that majestic building and its iconography (last one at 5:30 p.m.) and a gift shop indoors, too. You can purchase their tasty Greek salad dressing — a bottle is $4, and there’s a special Hellenic Cuisine Cookbook for $25.
Free parking is in the BJC Garage nearby (east).
Separate stands for flaming Saganaki and Baklava Sundaes/Loukoumades (fried dough with honey and nuts) are outside, but plate dinners, pastitsio (baked casserole of macaroni and ground beef with bechamel sauce), authentic Gyros, Spanakopita (spinach pie) Greek salad, Greek fries, extra Tzatziki dip/sauce, and yummy pastries are available at different food stands in auditorium and courtyard around the grounds. Beer, wine and Coca-Cola product soft drinks and water are served too.
I was there Sunday evening, sitting at an outdoor table streetside, and we had a blast listening to music and selecting which treat out of the assorted pastry boxes we were going to try. (My favorite was Kataifi – honey syrup-soaked shredded filo dough roll with nuts), but there is Baklava, Kourabiedes (powdered sugar dusted butter cookies), Finikia (syrup-soaked walnut cookies) and Koulouria (braided butter cookies) too inside the boxes.
You can get individual treats, but some are sold out, so if you get the pastry box, you still get Baklava and the powdered sugar Greek wedding cookies.
Everyone was raving about the custard-layered pastry squares, Galaktoboureko, which are not in the box and only available in the auditorium.
For the first time, I ordered the shish kebab plate, for normally I get a gyro, but now that I live in St Louis Hills, I have four nearby restaurants with delicious gyros (The Gyro Company, Apollonia Restaurant, Dado’s Cafe, Cafe Nova), so I have easy access.
Plate dinners come with either lamb shanks, lemon-herb grilled chicken or grilled pork kebabs, served over flavorful garlicky rice pilaf.
People are so friendly — I snapped this shot of Tom Ginos, Paul Xenakis and Kathy Ginos working the beer and wine tent streetside Sunday night.
Kudos to Festival Food Coordinator Chris Anastas and the many volunteers who did hours of prep and manned the stands to help many hungry diners.
The annual Labor Day festival, 105 years strong!, helps with the church’s local and national charities. What a well-run fest it is! “Great food and drink are a way of life with the people of Greece,” their program says.
For more info, visit www.opastl.com and you can check out the menu online.
If you miss it, they’ll not only be back next year, but throughout the year they have a few special occasions. So, you have other opportunities to “Eat, Drink and Be Merry Like a Greek” for a day. Visit the website for more information, but mark your calendar for:
Greek Kitchen Holiday Open House on Saturday, Nov. 5, from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the St. Nicholas Family Life Center, 12550 S. 40 Drive, St. Louis 63141. Open to the public.
Friday Lenten Fish Fry in 2023 at the Family Life Center. Dine-in or carryout.
A Taste of the Greek Festival in July 2023 in the Family Life Center. Dine-in or carryout.
Lynn Venhaus has had a continuous byline in St. Louis metro region publications since 1978. She is a Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic, currently reviews films for Webster-Kirkwood Times and KTRS Radio, covers entertainment for PopLifeSTL.com and co-hosts podcast PopLifeSTL.com…Presents, and writes features and news for Belleville News-Democrat and contributes to other publications. She is a member of CCA, AWFJ and St. Louis Film Critics Association. She is a founding member of the St. Louis Theater Circle.