BEST GREEK SALAD

TIE: Athenian Gardens/Pappas

We here in Tampa Bay have our own idea of what exactly comprises Greek salad. Our version features iceberg lettuce either nestled around or covering a scoop of creamy potato salad, onions, tomato wedges, feta cheese and a garnish of pickled hot pepper (usually salonika, occasionally jalapeño). We´ve been eating it this way for years. But in Astoria, Queens (which, along with Tarpon Springs, boasts the two highest Greek populations outside of Greece), ¨Greek salad¨ is a pile of lettuce tossed with feta and vinaigrette, and in the old country itself, they use the term to refer to the traditional ¨village¨ salad: a lettuce-less concoction of cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, green peppers and a block of feta. According to the third-generation owners of Pappas, the Floridian version was invented by their patriarch (Louis Pappamichalopoulos, who later changed his name, the poor dear), but potato salad-laced plates can be found on menus from Spring Hill to Sarasota. And with several locations for Pappas itself in town, it´s not necessary to travel to Tarpon Springs for a good Greek salad. But perhaps the original claimants should watch their backs; St. Petersburg´s Athenian Gardens is drawing its own Mediterranean-loving crowd, and dishing up big, fat Greek salads to be proud of. But whether you get your potato salad fix from Pappas or Athenian Gardens, rest assured that you are indulging in a treat as Floridian as grouper sandwiches.

Pappas Marketplace Café, 3409D Bay to Bay Blvd., Tampa, 813-839-0000, and other locations; Athenian Gardens, 6940 22nd Ave. N., St. Petersburg, 813 345-7040.

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