The restaurant is owned and run by brothers Kris and Alex Nika, as well as their mother and sister. On follow-up, Kris told me that the family used to own a restaurant in Athens, Greece; blublu has been open for about eight months in Mount Healthy. The first floor has the kitchen, four two-tops and a counter; the cozy second floor has another eight or so tables. The décor plays up the blublu name with shades of blue paint — the sea and the sky, our host explained.
They offer a small selection of wine by the glass (chardonnay, merlot and white zinfandel), wines by the bottle and beer, which accompany a larger variety of soft drinks. We settled in with an affordable pinot grigio to look over the menu and give our server a few moments to finish the other 10 things he was in the middle of when we arrived.
I was sort of wishing I had ordered coffee after a few minutes — old houses like the one blublu is located in are quaint, but they can be a little drafty, too. Luckily, I quickly felt the heat kick in and assumed that our server had instinctively added that to his task list.
The menu at blublu includes the usual suspects for a Greek restaurant, such as gyros ($5), spanakopita ($3.50) and baklava ($3.50).
But there were less familiar and quite intriguing options, as well, like roasted lamb shank ($9) Greek stew ($8.50), horta (dandelion salad, $5) and blublu pumpkin pie ($4).
We made a plan to stop back another day to get a gyro and focused on the less common options. We started with a slice of the spanakopita, dolmades ($3.50) and the dandelion salad.
My spanakopita was served home-style (as a square) rather than restaurant style (a triangle). The phyllo sheets were perfectly brown and busting with spinach. The feta played a lesser role in terms of bulk, which encouraged it to be a subtle background for all those earthy greens rather than overpower them. And speaking of greens, the dandelion greens were a nice surprise. They were slightly salty and what I call “bright,” flavored with olive oil and lemon.
The grape leaves were typical in one sense but atypical in another. Husband had been eating them over the holidays when we were in a Northern Ohio town known for its Lebanese food offerings. According to him, that variety didn’t compare to blublu’s. These were about the size of my little finger. Filled will herbed rice and served warm — they had a velvety mouth feel.
For entrees, we were lucky — they had our two choices on that particular day. (blublu’s menu states that because they make everything in-house some things aren’t available every day, so just be prepared with a second choice in case your first isn’t available. Believe me, there’s plenty from which to choose!)
Portion sizes at blublu are home-style, too — husband’s lamb shank could have easily fit into Fred Flintstone’s hand. The meat was falling-off-the-bone tender and served with tzitiki sauce that was as thick and tangy as sour cream.
My stew came with a side of rice and was a big bowl of veggies — green beans, eggplant, squash, mushrooms, red and green peppers, onions and tomato sauce — that were just accented with bits of pork for flavor. My only complaint was that it could have been warmer when it was served.
As we ate, a woman (who I assumed was Mrs. Nika) peeked around the corner of the wall separating the kitchen and dining room. A smile slowly grew on her face as she saw the room abuzz with happy customers.
Stuffed to the gills, we couldn’t order dessert, much to our server’s dismay. I did stop back for that gyro and baklava. I gave the gyro an immediate thumbs up but sought an expert opinion again for backup. In true Siskel and Ebert fashion, he added his thumbs up, saying that the meat was “sassy” and the tzitki a little on the sweet side, a nice foil for that honey-laden piece of baklava we were about to dive into.
Go: blublu Restaurant, 7417 Hamilton Ave., Mount Healthy
Hours: 2-8:30 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 2-9 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 1:30 a.m.-7 p.m. Sunday
Entree Prices: $7.50-$9
Accessibility: Steps for second floor seating