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Bites Nearby: Niko's Trapezi Greek Taverna

Traditional Greek fine dining restaurant a hidden treasure in Long Branch's Ursula Plaza.

As you may know by now, I enjoy Greek food in all its varieties, having previously eaten at in Hazlet and my grandmother's favorite Greek Diner, , in Freehold

on Ocean Avenue in Long Branch, had been highly recommended to me by more than a few food lovers as a go-to for Greek fine dining.  I got together with two friends earlier this week, split a bottle of wine, and spent an unnecessarily long time at Nikos eating and laughing as much as we could.  It truly was a great time, and the food was absolutely fantastic.

The menu is affordable, as the 3 of us walked out with a total bill of $63. Once you know how much we ordered, you'll realize $21 a person is a steal. 

I am always in the mood for a gyro or souvlaki, so I decided to steer away (but I did know someone else was ordering the Gyro Piato served over a Greek salad with pita, tzatziki, and rice -- so I could get my fix). 

We split two appetizers -- hummus and pita (garlicky and amazing -- I am a sucker for freshly made hummus), and Greek chips -- a choice of either  fried slices of zucchini or fried slices of eggplant.  We opted for the zucchini, which we decided was a good decision. It was served with Skordalia dip, a delicious blend of creamy garlic potatoes. 

I ordered one of my YiaYia's favorites -- the Spanakopita, or spinach pie, baked with feta and leeks in a buttery, flaky dough.  It really hit the spot, but as I could not finish it, it was great to take home for leftovers. 

We also ordered the Pastitsio, Greek lasagna baked with seasoned ground beef, cheese, and topped in a creamy bechamel sauce.  I had a version of this dish when I spent 4 days in Greece with studying abroad a few years ago, and Nikos' really brought back great memories.

To get a taste of the way they make souvlaki, we ordered a kabob with a side of tzaztiki and had a sharing plate between the three of us. We also, of course, ordered baklava at the end. It is one of my favorite Greek desserts -- but that goes without saying.

While Niko's has the traditional casual Greek dishes, their other entrees looked great as well. At a reasonable price, I will definitely continue to visit this restaurant -- my palate knows no bounds.  I would like to try the rest of their appetizers, including Piperies (grilled whole peppers stuffed with feta), Kavourokeftedes (crab cakes), or Soutzoukakia Smirneika (meatballs seasoned with cumin and simmered in tomato sauce). 

Fish lovers would enjoy their seafood selection -- perhaps Glossa Trapezi (baby flounder with spinach feta stuffing), or Garides Tourkolimano (five shrimp sauteed with tomatoes, feta and sweet sherry).  I would like to try the Kota Trapezi (chicken stuffed with feta, spinach and herbs on a bed of rice), or maybe if I am feeling brave, even the Arni Sto Fourno (roasted leg of lamb with lemon potatoes, served sliced with a demi-glace sauce).  I have also heard their lemony chicken soup -- Avgolemono -- is pretty tasty, and "cures all ailments".

Even their salads sound amazing -- the Roka, with arugula, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, feta and wheat rusks with their house vinaigrette, traditional Greek salad, or tomato and cucumber.  Grilled chicken, gyro, kalamari or shrimp can be added to any salad. 

I definitely recommend checking this restaurant out -- if just for takeout at first, but a sit down dinner was delightful.  They also offer catering services, so if you think the food is as great as I do, you may want to consider having them cook for your next party. 

For more information, call (732) 222-4600 or visit www.nikostrapezi.com.

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