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Greekman’s opened in June on the patio of Silver Lake’s hip-if-hibernating Jewish restaurant Freedman’s. In lieu of reopening to serve waffle latkes and tableside brisket, restaurateur Jonah Freedman decided to transform a portion of the parking lot into a picture of Aegean bliss — from white vine-covered walls and taverna chairs in royal blue to tzatziki and grilled octopus — for a summer-long pop-up that has since been extended through October, bolstered by a glowing write-up from L.A. Times food critic Bill Addison.
Here’s everything you need to know to go while you still can, including what the future holds for this Greek crowd-pleaser.
1. Greekman’s was inspired by the rich Greek food scene of Toronto.
The contemporary dining scene in Los Angeles is teeming with Mediterranean and Middle Eastern restaurants. There are Israeli restaurants, Persian spots, Lebanese joints, and plenty of places (such as Kismet or Bavel) that borrow from various cuisines within the expansive region. Yet, not a ton of Greek.
“That always sort of struck me as a hole in the market,” Freedman says. He hails from Toronto, where there’s an entire neighborhood — referred to as the Danforth, after the avenue it occupies — dedicated to the cuisine. “There are four blocks absolutely lined with Greek restaurant after Greek restaurant after Greek restaurant,” he says. Every August, Toronto’s Greektown hosts a massive food festival called Taste of the Danforth, which Freedman remembers fondly. “Greek food is a significant part of the Toronto food landscape,” he says.
2. The concept is meant to be a middle ground between a fine-dining restaurant and a homey taverna.
Greekman’s menu is paired down to five types of souvlaki; plus 12 plates that range from marinated olives and feta to lamb chops with lemon orzo; as well as dips as sides, and honey balls or olive oil ice cream for dessert. The style of eating is shared plates, but the food is a little more fine-tuned than what you’d find at a taverna. “We really wanted to hit this middle ground between what Avra or Milos feels like and then what a more basic Greek taverna feels like,” Freedman says.
Take the Greek salad, for example. In its most traditional form, it’s tomato, cucumbers, red onion, olives, sometimes green bell pepper or capers, and a block of feta finished with red wine vinegar, olive oil, and oregano. At Greekman’s, it takes the form of a panzanella. Chunks of Tartine Bakery sourdough are soaked in olive oil and toasted lightly, the feta is chopped into cubes, and the dressing is a sun-dried tomato vinaigrette.
3. Don’t miss the seemingly simple lemony potatoes.
There’s a reason that the lemony potatoes are listed as a plate and not as a side. Freedman compares the dish to the Freedman’s latke in that “there’s a lot more preparation that goes into it than you would necessarily think.” The potatoes are first peeled, then cooked in lemon juice and stock, cooled, quartered, roasted, cooled again, and then roasted once more in the same stock before being finished with vinegar. “You want that kind of waxy exterior and a little bit of that crisp, but nice and smooth inside,” Freedman says.
4. The wine list is (almost) entirely Greek.
Before Greekman’s came to life, Freedman admits to having very little knowledge of varieties native to Greece, like rhoditis or Cretan liatiko. Freedman’s had no Greek wines on the menu. Now he serves a tight selection of seven Greek wines — white, skin-contact, and red — plus Cantina Furlani’s Macerato, a sparkling, ruddy pinot grigio from Trentino, Italy. He worked with Matt Bone, a beverage director and the former GM of Freedman’s, on the list.
“There’s a lot of very cool, fun, really bright, high-acid, delicious summery wines that are being made in Greece, and it’s been so fun diving into it,” Freedman says. Since there are not a lot of imported Greek wines available in the Los Angeles market, having a small menu enables the pop-up to offer an all-natural selection.
He notes Papras Bio’s Oreads, a black muscat wine produced in Tyrnavos, Greece, as a favorite: “It’s this really floral, beautiful skin-contact wine, but on the palate, it’s not remotely floral, it’s more like grapefruit and soy sauce and strawberries.”
5. The pop-up is only open three days a week, so a table is a hot ticket.
Greekman’s is open for dinner on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, and its popularity makes it tough to nab a spot. Still, they do take walk-ins. Freedman also insists that setting a few Notifies is a smart move. “If you put yourself on the Notify list and you make sure that you’re getting push notifications from the Resy app, you will get a table, because people cancel every single day,” he says.
6. Although Greekman’s is a pop-up, it will likely live on.
At some point, Freedman plans to properly reopen Freedman’s as the Jewish restaurant it once was. But he doesn’t know when that will be, or if it’s even going to be in the same Silver Lake location where Greekman’s is now. “It’s sort of up in the air,” he says, “and I’m kind of letting guest feedback dictate what we do.”
His reasoning for extending Greekman’s through October was so that enough people could have the opportunity to try it. And regardless of whether the pop-up sticks around for even longer, the proof of concept was a success: “Greekman’s is something that I would like to do permanently, somewhere.”