When I first learned that there was another Greek restaurant coming to Elmwood Avenue I wondered how another could survive with all of the competition. It was just after Captain Jack’s closed its doors that Vasilis Express charged onto the scene. I soon learned that the operation was being headed up by Vasilis Panagopoulos, the former owner of Plate-Oh’s on Forest near Elmwood. After sitting down with Vasilis, I was happy to discover that the eatery was indeed offering up a formula that was not presently found in the neighborhood… even with Pano’s being situated right across the street.
One look at Vasilis’ menu and you will see a well thought-out business recipe geared towards attracting customers who are looking for quality food, at reasonable prices, in a shorter time frame. According to Vasilis, “There was a need for quick authentic Greek food. Not everybody wants to sit down to eat. I designed this so a limited few could eat in, but the majority of our customers walk right in, pick up their orders and walk right out. I’ve been in this business since 1983 (original location on Hertel) and in that time I have come to realize that by limiting the menu to fewer items that are still completely authentic, we can save on preparation time. I can also save on money because I don’t have to hire a wait staff. That means that the food is less expensive. At this point we are seeing a lot of college students walking in ordering the Mega Wraps and the Bagelicious Sandwiches. People also love the half pound burger with BBQ sauce, bacon and cheddar cheese for $4.50… it’s called The Smokey Mountain.”
Along with burgers (there’s a veggie burger too), wraps and bagel sandwiches (both staples of the Elmwoodian diet), Vasilis offers a daily fish fry, Texas Hots, moussaka, dolmades (grape leaves), avgolemono (Greek soup), traditional desserts, salads, souvlakis, sides and party trays. “You must try the roast pork Gyro,” Vasilis told me. “Inside you will find tzatziki, tomato, onion and French fries… nobody does that in Buffalo. And forget about the tortilla wraps. Instead we use 9″ wheat pita bread. We’ll be opening a patio in the spring and we’re keeping long hours – weekdays we’re open from 11am to 11pm and on weekends we’re open until 5am! Starting in the spring we’ll be open daily until 5am… if you call ahead and we tell you that your order will be ready in ten minutes, then it will be ready in ten minutes. If it’s not I’ll treat you to one of my desserts.”
I have a feeling that we’re going to see some great business generated in this eatery. Vasilis is onto something, and I’m happy to see another draw for the college students who tend to spend more time on campus eating at the cafes. I’ll be stopping in soon to try the dolmades… the ultimate gauge of a Greek restaurant’s authenticity. Until then Vasilis!