By Mimi Brodeur
Tavern on the Hill is a recipe for a successfully run restaurant.
Well-trained servers, inviting ambience and memorable food
are all key ingredients that have been stirred into this profitable
Owners Gus and Tina Giannaris and nephew Laki Daskalakis opened
Tavern on the Hill in 1993.
Lighted signs are helpful in pinpointing the restaurant hidden
off U.S. Route 11/15. Twinkling little lights and a green awning
mark the front entrance facing a full parking lot. A long hallway
leads to the hostess station headed by Tina Giannaris, who
keeps an eagle eye on new servers.
“When we first opened, there were just a couple of dining
rooms,” Daskalakis said.
They have since expanded to four dining rooms and a private
room. One of those rooms is a cozy-chic bar with nearby tables.
Saturday is the only day smoking is not allowed in the bar
Each secluded dining room is conducive to audible conversations
and legible menu reading. (Even though lighting is subtle and
romantic, the print is big enough to read without glasses.)
Low ceilings, heavy and ornate decorations, such as gilded
framed floral artwork and oversized candleholders, create an
intimate, yet elegant ambience.
I’ve had consistently good
meals here over the past decade, and a recent dinner was
no exception. We dined on fine wine and deliciously prepared
The daily appetizer special, saganaki
($6.50), is a traditional white, firm Greek cheese warmed
in a stainless steel serving bowl. It was thick, rich and
slightly oily. It tasted like golden brown, baked cheese
that you’d scrape off the
bottom of a frying pan. It was a little salty, but that just
made you eat more. Fresh garlic bread arrived just in time
to soak up the oozing separated oils.
USDA prime blackened tenderloin ($8.95) had a spicy outer crust
protecting a baby-pink tender interior. Chili oil added heat
and spiciness to a moat of red pepper sauce.
Our server arrived with our salads before we were ready. She
was discreetly made aware of this mistake. Our salads did come
back a short time later still crisp and fresh and fueled with
Arugula salad ($6.50) is a tribute to fall, with its wafer-thin
slices of pungent aged Parmesan-Reggiano, pears and toasted
walnuts. Fruity raspberry vinaigrette complemented the richness
of the cheese and nuts and the bitter-peppery bite of the arugula
Entrees range from a pricey roasted rack of lamb ($33.95) to
reasonable featured specials off an additional printed page.
A steak-size portion of Alaskan halibut ($22.95) had a velvety
texture supported by a spoonful of luscious lobster butter
sauce and prime bits of crab meat. A julienne of carrots, red
peppers and zucchini accented with fresh herbs and capers lay
next to the fish.
It seemed like everyone in our room was choosing the stuffed
potato as a side. We did, too. Twin balls of heavenly potato
mixture were tinged with a shadow of paprika.
Another light and wonderful side was Mediterranean peas. This
lively dish had crisp tender sugar snap peas, petit peas, celery
slices and chopped, fresh herbs saturated by aromatic broth.
It was quite colorful and full of flavor.
Entrees are a good size. There weren’t many gray-haired
couples leaving empty-handed. It would be hard to finish Portuguese-style
chicken with linguine all’olio ($19.95). This rustic
dish filled the plate completely with finger-length strips
of tender, braised chicken breasts, cured black olives, freshly
chopped tomatoes, quartered mushrooms, al dente pasta and red
spicy sauce. No one came around with a pepper mill, but then
again, the dishes didn’t need additional seasonings.
The dessert tray looked like something
you’d see in a
bakery case. There were at least five or six desserts plated
and arranged on the tray.
Six-layered moist carrot cake cemented by thick buttercream
took over one dessert plate. On another plate, a curvy slice
of chocolate cake wrapped around a subtle raspberry chocolate
truffle filling tasted even better than it looked.
Some of the desserts are made in-house, such as creamy rice
pudding. Desserts are all around $6.
There’s an excellent assortment
of after-dinner drinks, too, if you need time to digest.
Tavern on the Hill is hidden, but certainly
not forgotten. The bustling midweek crowd was a telltale sign