It’s not unusual to hear people talk about dinner and a movie, but how come the idea of dinner and a live show is less commonplace? We can’t speak for others, but we like the idea of having entertaining activities taking place while we dine. In Des Moines, we were able to get just that when we visited Olympic Flame Restaurant in the East Village. An added bonus for us was that it was easily within walking distance of many shops and our lodging. We would appreciate this later when we were walking off our meal.
We want to thank the Travel Iowa and Catch Des Moines for their hospitality. Rest assured that all opinions are our own.
1) Locals Know It’s Great
Olympic Flame is the brainchild of Angelo Ligdis, who was born in Olympia, Greece. That means it would be hard to get a more authentic experience without leaving the U.S. He opened his Des Moines restaurant in 1988, and it has become a local favorite. It was obvious to us that many of the other diners were quite familiar with the place, since they are regulars. This is always a plus, since it is a sign of consistency. After a day of exploring, we were ready to sit a spell and enjoy a delicious meal. We were also intrigued by the promise of some unusual sights that can be found at this place.
2) Flaming Cheese
When was your last visit to a restaurant that had such an unusual menu item that it made everyone else stop and watch the presentation? It’s hard to think of one that we have experienced quite like the delivery of Saganaki. To be honest, it’s easier just to refer to it as flaming cheese. The base of this appetizer is Kasseri cheese, which is made from sheep’s milk. Somewhat reminiscent of provolone or mozzarella, it comes dipped in egg batter and fried. The real experience begins when they deliver it to your table. A drizzle of ouzo makes the dish flammable, much to the delight of patrons. The jumping flames are quickly extinguished with a squeeze of lemon juice and a shout of Opa! We watched this show repeated a few times during our visit, and each time it was just as impressive.
3) The Cuisine
A common result of dining at Greek restaurants is that you will leave with a full belly. The dishes are filled with a combination of flavors that have been tweaked over centuries to create he perfect combinations. Olympic Flame offers a variety of appetizers, salads, and sandwiches perfect for smaller meals. Since this was our dinner time, we decided to choose from the platter items on their menu. Crystal went old school with the Gyro Plate. The name obviously comes from the main course, which was filled with deliciously tender lamb and beef. It also included a Tiropita, which is made with a cheese combination stuffed inside filo dough. It was so light and airy.
I selected the Souvlakia (Shish Kabob) that is made with tender cuts of pork seasoned with Greek spices. Like Crystal, my plate came with Tiropita, as well as Spanakopeta, which is similar except it includes spinach. Both platters also come with Dolma, a beef and rice mixture stuffed into grape leaves. A helping of orzo provides the pasta carbs for the meal. To keep us from the unlikely potential of leaving hungry, the meals started with homemade soup, Greek salads, and fresh bread. This is why we were so thankful to get to walk around after we finished.
4) Live Entertainment
As we dined, we would get the occasional show of flaming cheese. Every time they brought out the tray, the entire room would halt conversations to watch in awe as the flames erupted from the dish. Once they were extinguished, everything went right back to normal. It was quite interesting to observe this phenomena repeated over the next half hour. Just as this was starting to become commonplace, the next diversion arrived. During our research for our visit, we discovered that Olympic Flame hosts a belly dancer every Friday evening. Dinner and a second show? Yes, please!
After a short setup period, our evening show began. The rhythmic sounds of music pulsed through the restaurant, as our evening entertainer swayed to the beats. Most of the patrons seemed quite familiar with this attraction, and continued dining and their conversation. Periodically, a customer would offer a tip to the dancer, which was just as entertaining as her regular dance routine. We found ourselves slowing down the pace at which we were eating, so that we could savor more of the show. The dancer performs for an hour, and we were able to catch about half of her show. It made this one of our most memorable meals in quite some time. Now we wonder why more places don’t offer dinner and a show. What are some of your most memorable dining experiences? Share them with all of us in the comments section below. Thanks!