The parking lot outside the small white building was packed, and inside, the line of customers was trailing out the door. It was lunch time at Kafe Neo.
I crammed myself against the wall next to the display case of Greek pastries and prepared for a long wait. But I had just decided on something from the brightly colored chalkboard when I reached the front of the line and it was my turn to order.
Then it was only a matter of minutes before my falafel gyro and lemonade were delivered to my table.
I sank my teeth into my gyro and could immediately see why the destination was so popular.
My gyro had all the right components: the falafel was a little zesty but not too overwhelming, the pita was soft and the lettuce, tomato and onion were flavorful. Most importantly, the tzatziki sauce (which was quite tasty as well) didn’t spill all over me when I took a bite. And the lemonade, while simply out of a lemonade tank, wasn’t bad either. The prices seemed reasonable too – my lunch cost a little over $5.
The restaurant’s ordering system may draw similarities to a fast food joint, and the combo meals, which include a gyro, fries (Greek or regular) and a drink, support that label, but Kafe Neo, although fast, is definitely not your typical fast food fare. For one thing, the food is good, and also stays true to its Greek roots.
And the decor helps add to the authenticity. Bunches of ivy sit in urns on pedestals on the wall next to faded paintings on jagged hunks of plaster. There is even a mini plaster bust coming out of a pedestal hanging on the wall.
Although there was a steady stream of people coming in, because of the takeout option, there was plenty of room at the 10 tables and bar seating inside. And there also appeared to be limited outdoor seating available.
Kafe Neo opened in 1992, and because of its success, two new locations were established — one in Lynnwood near the Alderwood Mall and another that opened in Marysville in April.
Greek owner Sofeea Huffman said she started the restaurant partly because of her husband’s distaste for her country’s food.
“My husband didn’t really like Greek food and I decided I wanted to cook more Greek food, so I decided to open a restaurant, basically,” she laughed.
The restaurant offers a large variety of traditional Greek meals, including sandwiches, salads, soups, and pastries. It also recently started serving full dinners, including the popular mousaka and pastitsio. Kafe Neo also has a catering division.