It’s that time of year again! As of today I’m now 44 years old, not dead yet, and still not entering true Midlife Crisis mode with a fancy sports car or a mistress my son’s age. I’m fine with skipping that phase if everyone else is cool with it.
Most of my birthday was frittered away at work, serving others and digging into spreadsheets and doubling my caffeine intake so I could stay awake enough to get to the good parts of the day, while keeping myself too busy to ponder mortality or dwell on the never-ending internal debate over whether I’m truly applying myself toward fulfilling my life’s true purpose(s) here on this imperfect ball of dirt, dust, and Drumpf.
I continued tabling that potential pontification after work and went out to dinner at a promising restaurant that recently opened on our side of Indianapolis. Whenever a nice restaurant opens within five miles of our house, that’s reason enough for us to celebrate, birthday or no birthday.
Once upon a time, there was a restaurant in the town of Avon called the Cajuns Cafe. Anne and I made the mistake of giving them a try on their opening weekend, when everyone in town wanted something different but the staff hadn’t worked out any of the kinks in their processes, resulting in a two-hour wait for a spicy bowl of soup that made us miss a showing for a movie we can no longer remember. Not long after, the Cajuns Cafe closed its doors, but its cautionary tale lives on.
And now its former space is occupied by a new Greek restaurant called OPA! We approve.
Inside, photo murals of blatantly Greek sites adorn the walls and brighten the atmosphere. We might’ve missed that part if the weather had been nice enough to allow outdoor seating. Sadly, Old Man Winter has been quite the unwanted houseguest here in Indiana lately and refuses to pack his bags and get out.
We kicked things off with the traditional Greek restaurant saganaki show. Lots of specialty restaurants adhere to the traditions of their predecessors and competitors. Japanese steakhouses have their knife-juggling and their onion volcanoes; Chuck-E-Cheese has its animatronic Branson revue; Greek restaurants have their dairy pyromania.
When the flames die down, the waitress adds a bit of lemon, accompanies it with some pita bread, and leaves you with a nicely roasted, extra-thick cheese slice that goes great on crostini.
Salads are usually the dullest part of every meal, tossed together with a checklist instead of creativity. Credit OPA! for at least going for appearance points.
The main event: Mousakas! Eggplant, minced beef ‘n’ cheese, and potatoes, layered and topped with a thick bechamel sauce. Served as one of four quadrants with rice pilaf, Greek-spiced green beans, and piping hot potatoes to go with the Mousakas’ built-in potatoes.
Meanwhile, Anne enjoyed a juicy leg-of-lamb, and my mom tried to make the most of a simple, deconstructed gyro platter. Her leftover gyro meat was one of my favorite birthday presents and shall come in very handy with my next Wednesday night omelet.
Seating was immediate; service was speedy; food was fresh enough to demand some cool-down time; and prices were shockingly low, beating Olive Garden and Avon’s other ruling chains by a wide, almost unfair margin. I do regret having no room left to try dessert, blame owed to coworkers who brought in donuts this morning. We’ve vowed to make a special return visit just for dessert in the near future.
Best part of our visit: running into a couple I was just writing about the other day, whom we’d missed talking to on Sunday due to bad timing issues. The surprise opportunity for an overdue catch-up conversation was the best part of my 44th birthday, no contest. My loving wife, who also played a major part, understands I intend no slight against her contributions.
And, y’know, the restaurant was pretty awesome, too. Here’s to many more like it in the years and birthdays ahead.