Walk into and you’ll think you’ve entered a charming seaside restaurant on a faraway Greek isle.
That’s the idea.
“We are trying to give people an experience outside the Lehigh Valley,” says John Zannakis, co-owner. “A Greek experience.”
The spot in which Yianni's is located has a Greek history. The restaurant at 3760 Old Philadelphia Pike (just off Route 378) in Lower Saucon Townhip opened 35 years ago as Gus’s Crossroads, operated by Zannakis’s parents, Gus and Eleni. The latest transformation is the work of Zannakis and his sister, Maria Manakos, and is the fulfillment of a dream to recreate the spirit of a traditional Greek taverna’s food, family, friends and fun.
Over the past two years, Yianni’s has greatly expanded Greek menu options available in the Lehigh Valley. Skordalia (creamy garlic spread), dolmades (stuffed grape leaves), taramosalata (fish roe dip) and tzatziki (garlic, cucumber and yogurt sauce) are only a small fraction of the appetizer section--but to lovers of Greek cuisine, they are everything.
The extensive dinner menu includes all kinds of meats and pasta dishes, served in the Mediterranean fashion. Spit-roasted leg of lamb, gyro platters and moussaka--the layered dish of eggplant, potatoes and ground beef topped with béchamel sauce--are truly Greek. So is the retsina, a white wine named for the distinctive taste it acquires from pine resin traditionally used to seal its containers.
Just inside the restaurant’s main door is an iced display of fresh fish. The menu’s “Thalasina – From the Sea” section takes up a whole page, and fresh fish is acquired daily from a supplier in Philadelphia.
One recent Friday night, I ordered one of the menu specials: wild-caught striped bass plaki (grilled, $22). A portion of this tender, flavorful yet mild fish arrived at my table baked in a small clay pot, smothered with tomatoes, onions, tender potato slices and seasoned with parsley and garlic. It was totally delicious and would only have been more satisfying had I spent the day on a Greek beach.
Cabbage salad (politiki) ($5) was simple, with just cabbage and shredded carrot, but the olive oil, lemon and garlic dressing saved it from being boring. With taramosalata for an appetizer ($4), dinner for one was $31. Portions were large.
The staff were friendly, the bar (a.k.a. the Euro Lounge) looked tempting, and the outside dining area appeared romantic. The restaurant is also open for lunch, and there’s a private, catered event space downstairs, too.
Yianni's Taverna is open Tuesday and Wednesday, 11:30am to 10pm; Thursday through Saturday, 11:30am to 11pm; and Sunday, 8am to 9pm. The restaurant is closed Mondays.
Happy hour is held in the Euro Lounge Tuesday through Friday, from 5 to 7pm, with various drink special available.
I’m sorry to say I was at Yianni’s one day too early for the Skyy vodka Lehigh Valley Style “Dress to Impress” party scheduled for the following night. And I’m sure there was dancing.
As I was leaving, assistant manager John Kikrili and a waitress danced arm in arm--Zorba style--through the blue and white dining room.
“We do this every hour or so,” she said.
3760 Old Philadelphia Pike
Bethlehem, Pa. 18015