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Spartacus

Posted by MEZ 29 Sep 2011 6 Comments


Spartacus has been operating in Durham since 1993, which is a very impressive run for a restaurant. Greek food is their specialty, but they offer pasta, burgers, grilled steaks, and seafood as well. It’s definitely the sort of restaurant you can bring your whole family to, knowing they will all find something to make them happy. Atmosphere is relaxed but more upscale than a chain restaurant. Lots of creams and blonde wood.

There’s a huge patio in the front of the restaurant, which would be a great spot for a nice evening, although South Square doesn’t provide much in the way of views.

I started out with a drink from their cocktail list, the Gingerbread Cookie.

It’s a sweet cocktail made with butterscotch schnapps, cinnamon schnapps, Bailey’s Irish cream, and Sambuca. The butterscotch schnapps overwhelmed the other ingredients; I’d dial that down a few notches and bring the others up to compensate for a more well-rounded drink.

Pita slices and baguette rounds were served with a white bean dip that was chocked full of garlic, so much so that I thought the dip was spicy at first due to the garlic’s bite. I really liked it. My group of four then split the house antipasto.

It included a combination of taramosalata, hummus, skordalia, feta cheese, melizonasalata (basically baba ganoush), grape leaves, and tzatziki served with pita bread. The grape leaves were well received. The hummus was great, but I’d give the taramosalata the edge for best dip. Per Wikipedia, it’s traditionally made with fish roe, but our waiter said this one was made with salmon and I don’t think he meant eggs. However, it was pretty salty, so it could have been a caviar equivalent. Whatever its base, I loved the fluffy texture, the salt, and the light salmon flavor. The skordalia was intriguing for the chunks of what I’m pretty sure were pine nuts. However, the cucumber, olive, pepperoncini, and tomato offerings were on the paltry side with no more than two to four of each.

Most of our entrees came with a choice of soup or salad, and I opted to try my first cup of avgolemono soup.

It’s a traditional Greek soup made with an egg and lemon broth. This one featured moist, delicious roasted chicken morsels in an otherwise lackluster broth with nearly dissolved rice. If the lemon quotient of the soup were more prominent, it’d have been a lot more interesting.

Our entrees were very good; my friends didn’t think they were as good as Nikos Tavernos’s offerings used to be, but they were acceptable substitutes. One friend had the stuffed flounder.


If came stuffed with crab meat in a lemon dill cream sauce over rice and vegetables.

This is a mixed grill special that included rack of lamb, chicken, and shrimp was served with rice and vegetables.

The lamb received strong accolades and the rest of the dish was fine.

My husband had the gyro platter that came with a mix of lamb and beef, rice, vegetables, and tzatziki.

Being an eggplant fan, my choice was the mousaka. It contained layers of ground beef and eggplant topped with feta and a thick layer of béchamel sauce.

The beef and eggplant complemented each other well. The tomato sauce could have used some livening up, and the nutmeg of the béchamel dominated too much by the time I was halfway through the dish, but honestly, it was great. The fluffy texture of the béchamel was especially nice in contrast with the beef and eggplant layers.

Spartacus has a delicious, inventive selection of desserts, not just sticking with tiramisu and baklava. Our friends chose a baklava cheesecake that looked amazing.

They were quite happy with it. Our choice was the lemon marscarpone cake.

Lemony desserts are always rather pleasing, so I’d recommend it. The white chocolate curls on top were a nice choice, too, and I only like white chocolate on rare occasions. It worked well with the lemon. Don’t get coffee in the evening, though—mine had definitely been on the warmer too long.

Spartacus is a good choice if you’re looking for Greek options, especially if you’re with others who want more options on the menu than just Greek. It was about half-full on a Wednesday night. Plus, there’s belly dancing on Fridays!

Spartacus
4139 Durham-Chapel Hill Blvd.
South Square, Durham
Entrees: $12–$18
Sandwiches: $9
Website

Reviewed 9.22.11.

6 Comments »

  • Leigh said:

    I’ve been to Spartacus once. I would go back. They had a lot of interesting things on the menu. The service was not great – a bit slow and inattentive. I had a cesear salad with my meal, and it was nothing special. I know it’s a Greek restaurant so maybe I shouldn’t have high hopes for a cesear salad, but I think if you’re going to put something on your menu then make sure you do it well.

    I had the lobster ravoli for dinner, and it was amazing. I would recommend that to try. The only reason I’m going to go back is because the dinner was so good. The rest of it was just ok.

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  • Steph said:

    Don’t forget that in nearly every weekly coupon flyer, as well as the envelope of coupons that come in the mail, there’s a great Spartacus coupon! It’s usually for one free entree (if you buy one) or half-off your entree!

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  • igopogo said:

    I stopped going to Spartacus years ago.
    Reasons:
    The heart of Greek cooking is fresh food, simply prepared. Think grilled fish, various varieties of olives, dips freshly made, in house pita (see Chapel Hill’s Mediterranean Deli) really fresh seasonal vegetables cleanly prepared, salad makings fresh and seasonal, many reasonably priced bottles of Greek wine, from small producers staging a big and successful invasion of the US market, etc
    At this place, though, lentil soup appeared to come from a large can with only traces of vegetables in the salty broth.
    Industrially tough oderless tasteless tomatoes all year long, even in July!
    Dolmades that had been sitting waiting for a chance to be eaten for how long?
    Gyro meat probably brought in from the well-known large Chicago supplier of tough bland nearly inedible gyros (visit Mediterra Grill to see the alternative) to Greek “Tavernas” all over the US.
    And too frequent credit card errors in their favor.
    They do have plenty of parking, though.

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  • Jake said:

    I’ve been going to Spartacus for years. They have great food and even better people. Can’t recommend this place highly enough.

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  • Tooth said:

    Prior to finishing graduate school and moving to the Chapel Hill/Durham area 11 years ago, Spartacus was one of the first Durham restaurants I had ever been to while visiting the area. At the time, being a broke college student, I found that the Sunday buffet offered a pretty good value proposition (lots of food, reasonable cost). The quality of food from the dinner menu has always been pretty consistent, but I’ve always thought the food was consistently average. As a result, I haven’t eaten at Spartacus in at least a couple of years.

    Recently, I’ve seen some news about Spartacus hiring a new executive chef who supposedly has a solid background. I’m interested in going back to Spartacus for dinner in order to see what, if any, changes the new chef has brought to a menu that has been practically unchanged for at least a decade.

    The plating of the food in these photos is definitely more appealing than I remember the food being in the past, so that gives me hope.

    Opa!

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  • burgeoningfoodie said:

    We took my in-laws to Spartacus for dinner a while back and they enjoyed it. It isn’t blow you away Greek food but it was fairly sturdy if you want a no fuss dinner. My parents use to take us here all the time when we were younger and were needing a Greek fix (of course we had to be coming to Durham from a town 90 mins away first). Their buffet I’ve not had in almost 5 years, but I remember it being very greasy to say the least. I’m surprised it is still going as I rarely see many diners there. I know they always have coupons but if I’m looking for a similar fix for Med standards I’ll probably hit Med Deli first.

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