• Issue of
  • May 5-11, 2001
  • Vol. 0, No. 1

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  • Wine & Dine Review
  • Full House

    2001-04-07
    "I serve food people love," says Greg Kroustalis, owner of Greg's Famous Bar-B-Q in Matthews. "And I love people who love quality food." Kroustalis should know. He has been in the Charlotte restaurant picture since the 1970s. Kroustalis, a native of Karbenise, Greece, came to Charlotte in 1970 after his mother moved here. "Charlotte was the best city in the South. The weather was the same as Greece and there are good quality people here," he notes. During the 1980s he became co-owner of Gus's Sir Beef on Monroe Road and the former Flamingo Restaurant, which was on the corner of South Boulevard and Tyvola Road. In 1994, he bought a 40-year-old barbecue business in Mooresville located at 233 South Broad Street. It is that restaurant he has duplicated in Matthews. "All of our recipes at Greg's are made from scratch. Everything, day and night, is fresh every day," Kroustalis continues. This is a formula that works. At breakfast, lunch, and dinner there is a wait at Greg's. But Kroustalis hasn't gone the headset or vibrating beeper route yet. Anxious diners crowd in around the front section, many just thankful to find a parking space. The dining room is a bit plain, but the diners are boisterous. Greg's is a gathering place, a family place. A wall divider separates the 3000 square foot room into smoking and non-smoking sections. Booths ring the outer wall while tables and chairs seem to be in constant flux as servers reconfigure them for waiting diners. The menu, which is edged with advertisements from local businesses, devotes two pages to breakfast, which begins at 6am. On the other three pages are 50 items that are as diverse as Greg's clientele. Menu items range from Carolina-styled barbecue plates to shrimp cocktail appetizers; prime rib entrees to foot long hot dogs; burgers and fries to a baked manicotti. In addition to the main menu, Greg's has a daily special insert. One day's specials included new items such as half a baked chicken over rice ($4.95) and pastitsio, Greek style lasagna ($4.95). Other special items were on the regular menu but were reduced in price by a dollar or two. Specials are served with a choice of two "vegetables" which include banana pudding and apple cobbler and the usual suspects: turnip greens, cole slaw, fried squash, macaroni and cheese, stewed okra with tomatoes, pinto beans, mashed potatoes, peas, rice and gravy, and potato salad. Kids' meals are available for $2.25. Low price is the immediate attraction at Greg's Bar-B-Q. Most of the dinner entrees are in the $5 or $6 range including two vegetables. The Italian dishes with salad and garlic bread are less than $7, and a cheeseburger with fries is $3.95. What drew me to Greg's was the design of the building. Not many restaurants located in strip centers have the luxury of building an alcove for a barbecue pit per North Carolina and county requirements. But Kroustalis owns the strip center and built the 110-seat restaurant to his specifications. Greg's food is simple and clean. The barbecue, made from pork shoulders, is served either chopped or sliced and is served with three sauces, although you may have to scout tables to find all three. One is a housemade vinegar-based spicy sauce or dip; another is more of a commercial-grade Hunt's style barbecue sauce. The third is straight-from-the-bottle hot sauce. There are some terrific entrees which are sold in large portions. The best is the lasagna. Rather than a dish of submerged pasta smothered by gooey cheese and marinara sauce, the cheese is used to accent the pasta and the meat sauce is delicately flavored with a very "Old World" appeal. The garlic bread that accompanies the pasta dishes turns out to be not very Old World, garlicky or tasty for that matter. I passed on the fried flounder which looked remarkably unappealing. Better was the smartly splendid barbecued half chicken, wondrously succulent. Of the sides, the turnip greens were fresh tasting while the macaroni and cheese was oversauced. The onion rings are perfectly crisp but imprisoned by a thick batter. Hush puppies are a bit crusty and the banana pudding was overly saccharine. Service, pleasant and informal when given, is rushed -- too rushed. Servers fly around the room taking orders and delivering dishes but rarely check back with the diner. A few extra people to bus tables would go a long way here. The menu could be more clear, too. A baked half chicken over rice special arrived with gravy although it was not noted on the menu and not disclosed by the server. But these are just minor gripes for a welcome addition to the neighborhood. You can pay for dinner for two with a $20 and still get change back. You may even have a take home box. On the breakfast menu are eggs, omelets, pancakes, waffles, French toast, biscuits and gravy, grits, livermush, country ham, hash browns, and home fried potatoes. The House Special is ham, egg and cheese on pita bread with home fried potatoes or grits for $3.65. Those of you who are loyal followers of Greg's Famous Bar-B-Q since it opened last August will not be happy that I am sharing this information, since the crowd has steadily grown and the wait for a table at mealtimes has lengthened. For too many years the Matthews corridor has been a dining desert. Only recently have restaurateurs begun to take notice. Kroustalis, however, who has lived in Matthews for 15 years, is right ahead of that curve. With the influx of apartment and retirement communities and young families in Matthews, offering value meals is a no-brainer. One of Charlotte's peculiarities is that even though we have a prodigious group of Greek American restaurateurs, not one operates a Greek restaurant. Italian? Yes. Deli? Yes. Meat and three? Yes. Many of these restaurants serve a Greek dish or two. But a Greek restaurant? No. Even though Kroustalis' place isn't Greek, his restaurant does recall one Greek legend: Midas, for surely this is a gold mine. A win for Kroustalis and a win for southeast Charlotte diners as well. Greg's Famous Bar-B-Q, 10915 Monroe Road, Matthews. 704-847-5035. Hours: Monday through Saturday 6am until 10pm. 233 South Broad Street, Mooresville. Hours: Monday through Saturday 6am until 9pm, Sunday 7am until 8pm. AmEx, MC, Visa.
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