Acropolis Bar & Grill, New Tampa

The Greek restaurant is happy to add a festive, affordable element to the neighborhood.

By Laura Reiley, Times food critic
Published January 17, 2008

NEW TAMPA - When I moved here, my Realtor, upon discovering my interest in restaurants, said, "This area has some great places. There's an Olive Garden, a Red Lobster . . ."

I suppressed a slight shudder. Chains have their place, but what about independents?

New Tampa has been slow to offer the diversity, hipness, vitality and vision that come of locally owned restaurants. The folks at Ciccio and Tony's have made inroads with their outposts of C&T and the Lime, and now Sam and Costa Waez have further broadened the playing field.

At the end of 2007, they tweaked their Ybor City Acropolis formula for suburban sensibilities, opening at the site of the defunct Tampa Brickyard. Some might insist that a new Greek restaurant is unnecessary, since Louis Pappas Market Cafe is in the same strip mall.

Acropolis serves a different purpose entirely, I say. The kitchen is open until 3 a.m. on the weekends, midnight during the week. The staff is young, attractive and prone to launching into fits of grapevine dancing at the slightest provocation. They yell "opa!" and break plates, a belly dancer undulates on the weekends, a DJ spins world music late into the night. The only practice I can't condone in the name of festivity is the mad tossing of paper napkins at intervals. A layer of napkins flutters across the floor, prompting the unbidden thought, "What would Al Gore say?"

The same menu all day means it's a little splurgy at lunch but affordable at dinner. The Waez brothers have stayed focused in the kitchen, ditching things that may not be accessible to timid palates fishy taramasalata and keeping the Greek crowd pleasers (flaming cheese, watch the eyebrows). Generally, portions are big and entrees come with a choice of soup or salad - hard to choose, because the soup is often a delicious lemony avgolemono (like egg-drop soup, Greek-style) and the generous Greek salad is topped with a wedge of perfect (not too salty) feta.

The shawarma platter ($10) is a huge plate packed with soft, warm pita and a pile of shaved meat (a lamb and beef mix), surrounded by roasted veggies, a heap of Greek salad and another of paprika-seasoned fries. It's an exercise in mix-and-match: a wedge of cold, juicy tomato is a perfect foil for the tender, dusky meat. Pop an olive, dab a pita corner in meat juice spiked with a little vinegary Greek dressing, then you're ready for grilled zucchini or sweet red onion.

Vegetarians will be especially pleased at their options: tahini-heady hummus and baba ghanoush (both $5); a roasted veggie sandwich ($6) anchored by nutty eggplant; falafel offered as a wrap or app, drizzled with more tangy tahini sauce. That said, the Crete burger ($7) may win the New Tampa burger championships, a juicy patty topped with molten Greek cheese, onion, tomato and crisp romaine.

The finer restaurants in Tarpon Springs needn't be up at night worrying about this newcomer. It's not trying to scale any new gastronomic heights. Neighborhood chains, however, should be quaking in their familiar booths.

Casual, exuberant, easy to love, Acropolis knows who its customers are: New Tampa families in search of a good deal and a good time.

Contact Laura Reiley at lreiley@sptimes.com or (727) 892-2293. Her blog, the Mouth of Tampa Bay, can be found at www.blogs.tampabay.com/dining. Reiley dines anonymously and unannounced. The Times pays all expenses. Advertising has nothing to do with selection for review or the assessment.


Acropolis Bar & Grill

14947 Bruce B. Downs Blvd., Tampa
(813) 971-1787
Cuisine: Greek
Hours: 11 a.m. to midnight Monday through Thursday; until 3 a.m. Friday and Saturday; noon to midnight Sunday
Details: Amex, V, MC; reservations accepted; full bar; live music Wednesday through Sunday; belly dancer Friday through Sunday; international DJ Friday and Saturday nights
Prices: Sandwiches and wraps $6-$8; entrees $10-$19