And we're wild for Oscar's
by Gay Lyons
I was introduced to Oscar's when my daughter Liz brought me the largest falafel sandwich I've ever seen--gigantic falafel pieces nestled in a giant piece of pita with a generous amount of hummus, lettuce and tomato. It was delicious--and huge. When I was a kid, I remember something called an "all-day sucker." This was an all-day falafel. If I started at breakfast and munched intermittently all day, I could probably finish by bedtime.
When a couple of friends came over on Super Bowl Sunday, we decided to order pizza. Is it true more pizza is delivered on this night than any other? Or is this urban legend? That's a topic for future research, but this night I decided to find out if Oscar's pizza was as good as the falafel.
While the guys watched the game, we women perused Oscar's website. The menu's range is impressive: starters, salad, burgers, sandwiches, pizzas and calzones, pasta, desserts, and a kid's menu. There were 18 specialty pizzas plus a "create your own" option. I would like to try the eggplant pizza and the shrimp and feta pizza, but we stuck with the basics: a pepperoni, sausage, onion and green pepper pizza and a margherita pizza, topped with tomatoes, basil, olive oil and mozzarella and fontina cheeses. We also ordered some hummus.
Afterwards, we continued to look at the menu, mostly because it was so tantalizing but also because it was more fun than watching football. By the time the pizzas arrived, we had decided to meet the next day and try the Greek burger and the gyro.
In an accidental stroke of good timing, the pizzas arrived at halftime, so we sat down together to enjoy the feast. The hummus was delicious and well presented--garnished with toasted pine nuts, parsley, olives and a drizzle of olive oil. The menu described the bread that accompanied it as pita, but it didn't seem like pita to me, and it didn't seem like the pita I remembered from the falafel sandwich. It was thicker, almost like a slim roll--perhaps made from pizza dough. The hummus was great, but I'd have preferred something thinner to dip into it.
Everyone liked the pizza. The dough was obviously freshly made. The crust was not thin, but it was thinner in the middle and puffed up to crunchy, puffy breadstick proportion around the edges. There was a perfect balance of sauce, toppings and cheese on both pizzas. The sausage, pepperoni, onion and green onions were not dominated by sauce or cheese, and the margherita pizza had a fresh, almost delicate taste, but still plenty of cheese.
My description of lunch is preceded by a warning. We misread a line at the website. Last on a list of "promises" was this: "Serving you enthusiastically at our table, take out, or fast delivery." We thought that meant you could dine on the premises. Wrong. The space outside the counter is tiny--no tables. There is a table and two chairs outside, but that's not very appealing in winter.
We ordered the Greek burger and gyro with sides of French fries and steamed vegetables and decided to take our food to my house, just minutes away. The guy behind the counter was solicitous. He told us it'd be 15 minutes, fetched two chairs and offered beverages. But be warned: This is strictly a take-out or delivery place. However, at Oscar's Restaurant at 1840 Cumberland Avenue you can dine in as well as get take-out or delivery.
Back at my house we cut both the burger and gyro in half and divided the fries and steamed vegetables between us and started eating. We're normally a chatty pair. Lunch usually goes like this: chew, swallow, talk; chew, swallow, talk. Not this time. At least five minutes went by before one of us spoke--and then it was only to say, "This is really good." After another five minutes of silent chewing and swallowing, the other of us said, "Yeah, really good." Five minutes later, I think we both said "Umm, good" in unison. It was the most silent meal we've ever shared.
At the end, all the burger and all the gyro were gone, and we'd made a substantial dent in the crunchy waffle fries and soft steamed vegetables. The fries and vegetables were fine, but the Greek burger and gyro were outstanding.
The gyro was enclosed in the yummy pita I remembered from the falafel sandwich. The thinly sliced beef and lamb were well seasoned and perfectly complemented by the tzatziki (sauce made with cucumber, garlic and yogurt). The same tzatziki came in a small cup to be spread on the burger, made of high quality beef, feta and black olives topped with tomatoes, red onions, bell peppers and lettuce. I don't eat burgers very often. This one makes the cut. And unlike my other favorite burgers, this one can be delivered.
Oscar's prices are reasonable. A large pizza is $13.99. The Greek burger was $5.99. There's an $8 minimum charge and a $1 delivery fee.