There’s nothing too surprising about the menu at Opa Taverna. What is surprising is how well they do almost all of it. Highlights on my visit included a colorful platter piled high with generous tangles of tender octopus glossed with olive oil, vibrantly seasoned hummus with crispy, fresh pita chips, and a bubbling fried cheese saganaki. I craned my neck regularly as I caught the seductive aromas wafting from the kitchen.
By the time the revamped and upgraded Opa quietly debuted in April in the former Kreutz Creek Vineyards tasting room on West Chester’s Gay Street, the eatery had already solidified a stellar reputation as a local takeout and delivery spot for exceptional Pan-Hellenic fare. Whether it’s the coastal flavors of Cyprus or the skewered street fare of the mainland, managing partner and executive chef Konstantinos “Kostas” Botos goes about his work with lightness and finesse. With a few exceptions, ground meats, bechamel-laden sauces and the traditional heaviness of northern Greek cuisine is not the norm here.
Eschewing the norm extends to the décor, too. In this bright and refined 50-seat space, you won’t find a blue-and-white flag, plaster statues or any wrought iron. Rather, Opa has an almost Scandinavian look to it, with calming blond woods, cream-colored stacked stone wall facades and attractive hanging wicker-basket lamps.
Lunch features a selection of crunchy, lightly dressed vegetable salads and small plates. Zesty Greek meatballs come in a chunky tomato sauce, and my milky mound of Halloumi was perfectly grilled. Gryos are stuffed with delicately seasoned slices of lamb, beef and chicken. The tender pork and chicken souvlakis are equally delicious.
Dinner options are infused with the Mediterranean trinity of olive oil, lemon and oregano, whether it’s the New York Strip, the meaty lamb chops or the Branzino, dorata and snapper flown in weekly from Greece. (The black sea bass comes from New Jersey.) Fish is marinated and slow cooked at a low temperature over coals to retain the juices. All entrées come with a side of delicate potato wedges steeped in lemon juice.
The honeyed baklava, karidopita (walnut cake), creamy, custardy bougatsa, and ekmek kataifi (syrupy filo dough filled with sweet cream) are all made in house. What each lacked in presentation was made up for by its sumptuous flavor.
Opa has sidewalk dining and recently acquired a liquor license. There are a few consistency issues to iron out—like my dry pork chop and soggy french fries on a recent visit. But Opa’s light and lively atmosphere and breezy Greek fare leave a lasting impression.