Glyko me gala – Metrio me gala – Metrio – Sketo dilitrio – Fredo – Freduccino. The list, endless. Time, limited. Growing up as a Greek American, I am torn in two. I say this because given our current status in the world as a people who are all of a sudden labeled as Europe’s welfare line, it’s hard to let people know who we really are; a hard working and proud people. On the other hand, the secondary Greek side comes out; we love to party, but we love relaxation even more! Which after the last 89 words you’re probably still wondering what I am ranting about. My answer, cafeteries.
What’s my point? I love them. What’s my problem? We don’t have any in Philadelphia! To get an idea, let me begin with a list so you can begin to understand why we should… NO… must have one establishment built in Philadelphia to accommodate my needs (which needless to say is the voice of the majority in this particular situation)!
So many Starbucks, so little originality
Coffee is essential to daily life here in America. So why should we as Greeks get the short end of the stick on this one? There is a saturation of Starbucks across the country and there are very few small/cool/non-commercial coffee shops to patronize. When is the last time you saw a Starbucks carry Nescafe? Let me answer that for you. NEVER.
Wake up and smell the coffee
You have all heard that “America, runs on Dunkin”, slogan that Dunkin Donuts has, but does it really “run on dunkin”? Yah sure it’s quick and easy to go to a Dunkin Donuts drive through or pick up window and get a quick fresh brew, but where is the fun in that? It doesn’t relax you. You only feel more rushed as you try to bob and weave through traffic to get to work! If there was a true Greek cafeteria in Philly you could stop there and actually enjoy a frappe (metrio with no gala of course) and have a conversation with real people, not your car radio as you listen to ESPN radio in the morning.
Where else are you gonna learn tavli (backgammon)?
For those of you that had the chance to learn the game from your pappou as a child, you are exempt from this. Everyone else, including me, had to learn from hours well wasted at the cafeteria. You first walk in and order your coffee of choice, then maybe a bougatsa or a crepe with nutella – merenda for the diehards – and then find a worthy opponent. You proceed to sit and play for hours learning every intricacy of the game. By the time afternoon comes around you have become a tavli master. Tell me if that has ever happened at Starbucks. Again, I think not.
Pure, unbothered, worry-free relaxation
There was once a place called Elixir. It opened in 2007 in the Northern Liberties section of the city, as that part of the city experienced an upswing in its development. Elixir was my place to get away. It was the only true place where I could go uninterrupted for hours. I could go and get a frappe, eat bougatsa from time to time, play some tavli with anyone who wanted to join, study for a test, watch sports or just sit back and enjoy a conversation with a complete stranger and make friends along the way. That particular place had since closed down, but I’ll hand it to them, it was hands down the best frappe/crepe/hangout that I had ever patronized and I wish it would come back. It was the only place in Philadelphia where you could go, sit down and order and feel like you are in Greece at the same time. The atmosphere and the attitude of the place reminded me of the cafeterias in my hometown in Greece and evoked a sense of nostalgia that is not easily replicated.
So to all of you out there who are wondering where you can get a good frappe and some food. There are a few places in Philadelphia that offer these things. First, is Savvas on Drexel University’s campus. Great pizza/food/bar and you can sit down for a coffee with friends and enjoy Drexel’s campus as it buzzes in the spring months. The other is OPA which is located on 13th and Samson. Good Greek style tapas and a wonderful place if you want to impress your honey! After dinner, sit back and enjoy a frappe!
Either way, I challenge anyone in the Philadelphia area to get this started and bring us all a real Greek Cafeteria! This way, we won’t have to worry that the only time that we can enjoy these things is if we go to Astoria in NYC.