A Greek salad can be a beautiful thing. At My Other Kitchen in Belmont, the salad's signature is a delicious tomato-flavored vinaigrette tucked beside a bowlful of crisp cucumbers, bell peppers, onions, tomatoes, pickled peperoncini, olives, and feta. By the time you've had a few bites, you'll have guessed that this restaurant is related to the former Andros Diner, a longtime fixture on Trapelo Road, where the Greek salad and the memorable dressing was a specialty of the house.
In fact, the owners are indeed related. George Manetas, 47, of My Other Kitchen, is the son of Andros owners John and Annette Manetas, and worked with them since his teen years, washing dishes, eventually cooking, and going to college outside Athens to acquaint himself with real Greek culture. At the new spot, George's wife, Luciane Ribeiro, helps out, as do their son, Gabriel, 15, and daughter, Maria Alice, 19. Niece Stella Morganti, who also worked at Andros, is here, as is George's father.
Honestly, you could put a straw to the little container of salad dressing and be perfectly happy. The formula started at Andros as a family recipe. "We took the traditional dressing that was served in Greece and put an American spin to it," says George Manetas, "and tweaked it over the years."
He opened the 10-stool takeout last month in a former Domino's pizza location. The shoebox of a place (it's less than 700 square feet) is very light with windows on two sides, subway tiling, and slate flooring. In good weather there are 10 more seats outside.
The brief menu consists of many Greek favorites, including the Greek salad ($5.95 and $7.95); chicken souvlaki ($8.25 with a side and salad), marinated chunks of moist meat; chicken gyro in pita, highly seasoned ground poultry inside grilled pita with the garlicky yogurt sauce, tsatsiki ($7.25); an exceptional lamb burger with tsatsiki and crisp salad vegetables ($9.95); and hearty spinach pie in phyllo with feta ($7.25). There's also a cheese pie in phyllo ($6.95), which isn't as flaky as the spinach.
Soups ($3 and $5) change daily. Chickpea-lentil is a vegetarian bowl with a surprising deep flavor; avgolemono, the classic rice and lemon mixture, is thick here, and satisfying.
Chicken gyro or a marinated breast of chicken is offered on the Greek salad ($8.95), and though all ingredients in this bowl are exceptionally fresh, the tomatoes are hard and terrible. A roast beef dinner ($11 with two sides) is thinly sliced and layered in its own juices. The family meal ($24.95; order three hours in advance) comes with a large whole chicken, three sides, a salad, and pita. Get the wedges of roast potato and the nicely flavored rice pilaf. You'll also need an extra house salad ($4.95 and $6.95). Finish the meal with very good baklava ($4.95). An apple square one night, made with phyllo ($4.95), wasn't as crisp and wonderful as the walnut-dense, flaky baklava.
When Andros Diner closed in 2011, the reason was nonpayment of taxes. It was seized by the state Department of Revenue; the diner also owed Town of Belmont taxes, according to a Globe story. Says son George, it was an "issue with accounting, bad timing, the economy. We are trying to put our best foot forward. This is my first place."
To that end, he wants to build the image of My Other Kitchen "as an eclectic cafe, keep the Greek and Mediterranean dishes, and trying to branch off and do some other creative dishes." He makes a juicy, garlicky veggie wrap ($6.95) with grilled eggplant and zucchini, roasted peppers, and feta, and plans to expand the vegetarian options.
A son shouldn't have to pay for his father's mistakes. George Manetas learned from very good Greek cooks — his parents — and now he's on his own, starting slowly, and making the same very appealing good food. You can't help but cheer him on.