Boise Festivals and Events

Greek Food Festival - Try Things the Greek Way

For two days in early June, Boise's Greek community dons their funny hats and cooks up a whole lot of traditional dishes for hungry Boiseans who appreciate a taste of the Old World.

This event, held annually at the Saints Constantine & Helen Greek Orthodox Church just west of Downtown, is a Boise tradition, and its popularity might take you by surprise. It is so popular, in fact, that they've expanded the seating area several times in recent years to accommodate the ever-increasing crowds.

The reason it's so popular is that the food is as tasty as it is unfamiliar. Sure, they've got familiar stuff like gyros and Greek salad, but items like dolmathes (an herb and beef combination wrapped in grape leaves) and spanikopita (spinach pie with good ol' feta cheese) are spectacular enough to keep people coming back year after year.

The almighty dolmathe

To partake in this culinary delight, you'll need to buy food tokens by the entrance. Then you can ogle all the different dishes in the buffet-style food line, pick out a few things you can't pronounce, and find yourself a table under the big circus tents they put up to keep the sun and/or Macedonian arrows off the party.

The ever tasty gyro

But there's more than gyros and pilafi to this little shindig. Every hour or so they send out the womenfolk to entertain the guests with Greek dancing. There's also a little market area where you can buy all sorts of jewelry and other trinkets. Wine and beer is also available for those who are so inclined. For a really good time, drink some ouzo with one of the many large Greek men and then try to tell him that Alexander the Great wasn't really all that great. Just make sure you don't have anything to do for about, oh, three hours, because that's how long it'll take for the subsequent history lesson to conclude.

And then there's dessert. If you think that some of the main dishes are hard to pronounce, just inquire about the desserts. Although the treats look familiar, they've got names like galatobouriko, karithopita, koulourakia, and kourabiethes. Don't be scared, though. You might trip over the name trying to order some, but sugar tastes just as tasty no matter what you call it.

For years they had the desserts down in the church basement. Despite my infamous sweet tooth, I could never convince myself to go down and see the extensive lineup of cookies, pastries and other treats. I suppose I was afraid I'd get down there below ground and find a sheep, a wooden paddle, and Neidermeyer. Thankfully, they moved the desserts to a separate building they call the Greek Pastry House, so you can now peruse the delicious homemade desserts without risking any type of Greek initiation ritual.

If you go to the Greek Food Festival, be prepared to walk. The church is in a residential area, and the event's popularity means that the parked cars on the neighboring streets stretch for blocks and blocks. But the walk is worth it. After all, it's the best opportunity all year long to get yourself a real gyro and do things the Greek way for a hour or two.

Event: Greek Food Festival
Where: Saints Constantine & Helen Greek Orthodox Church
2618 West Bannock Street, Boise Idaho
(corner of 27th & Bannock)
When: First Friday and Saturday in June, 11am-9pm
Cost: $1 suggested donation. Prices of individual food items varies.
Website: Boise Greek Food Festival
Why I love it: Everybody should do things the Greek way at least once a year.