THIS ISN’T THE FIRST TIME we’ve been to 125 Bridge Street in Pelham for Greek food. But it’s not the same place it was five years ago.
Back then, it was called Dimitriou’s. It billed itself as a family restaurant and it seemed kind of like a diner, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner with a Greek accent.
Now, it’s called Ya Mas, and it bills itself as a Greek taverna and bar. It seems like the kind of Old World restaurant you might find in the middle of a village in the Greek countryside that Rick Steeves would pop into in one of his PBS travelogues.
And based on the crowd we found there on a recent Friday night, it’s doing things right.
When we pulled into the parking lot, we saw people standing outside the front door, and I realized I probably should have made a reservation. We found the last available spot in the parking lot, and made our way to the entrance.
Inside, the place was packed — the most densely populated dining room we’ve seen in a long time. The ambient noise made it hard for us to hear the hostess telling us how long we’d have to wait. Turned out, she said it would be 30 minutes for an inside table, 10 minutes for a seat at the bar, or be seated immediately on the outside patio. Eyeballing the crowd, we figured 30 minutes was much too optimistic, so we opted for outdoor seating.
We got seated right away, but it soon became apparent that Ya Mas is suffering from the same kind of staff shortages that have besieged restaurants all over the country. The waitstaff was out straight, and the kitchen must have been swamped. It took more than 30 minutes for our appetizers to arrive, and at least as long for our entrees.
A while after we were seated, we received a basket of warm bread with a plate of sun-dried tomatoes and olive tapenade in dipping oil.
When it came time to order, our waiter told us they were already out of several items, including two that we had decided on.
I started with Trikala Zucchini Fritters ($14), a long platter of tasty patties made of zuke, summer squash, feta cheese and herbs, fried and served on a generous smear of bright, garlicky tzatziki sauce.
Mrs. Gourmet started with a beet salad (half size, $7) with mixed greens, candied walnuts and a mild goat cheese. (We can’t recall the specific name of the salad, and it’s not on the online menu.) She raved about it; I found it a little too sweet.
As much as she loved the beet salad, she was even more happy with her Braised Lamb Shank ($29), with its fall-off-the-bone tender, moist lamb served on a bed of rice in a rich tomato sauce. Mrs. G is a sucker for braised lamb, and this rich version was one of the best she’s encountered.
After being told that the moussaka was sold out, I took our waiter’s advice and ordered the Greek Mixed Grill ($28), with three tender skewers of nicely charred beef, chicken and pork souvlaki, loukaniko sausage and pancetta served atop a pile of “Hellenic” fries with a cup of tzatziki.
As we waited for our entrees, the background music inside the restaurant suddenly changed and got louder. When we peeked in the windows, we saw that a belly dancer was working her way around the room. That was a first for us, but it’s not unusual in many traditional Greek restaurants.
By the time we finished our entrees — or more accurately, boxed up half of each to take home — we had been there for two hours, and we were more than ready to leave. We had to flag down our hustling waiter in order to get our check, which came to $94 — not inexpensive for two apps, two entrees and a glass of wine.
The staff, harried as it was, was unfailingly polite and friendly, And the food was good. We just wish we had visited Ya Mas on a night when it was a little less busy.