Kephi Greek Kitchen in Williamsburg
I’ve mentioned before how much I love work lunches. Every time I eat with my team from my Williamsburg market, I try something new. On my most recent trip to Williamsburg, we had lunch at Kephi Greek Kitchen.
The authentic Greek restaurant opened on Williamsburg’s bustling Richmond Road earlier this spring. I first heard of Kephi while writing about the restaurant for my goWilliamsburg Visitors Guide. “Kephi” comes from the Greek word meaning “passion,” and that’s exactly what the restaurant puts into every dish and baked good. Kephi uses the freshest ingredients ranging from local produce to herbs and spices picked from the Greek mountain ranges.
The renovated restaurant looks like an upscale establishment, complete with cozy up-lighting in the bar/lounge area. However, the vibe at Kephi is much more casual and even features a market.
I suggest coming here with a few friends because Kephi’s menu offers plenty of options that are perfect for sharing. We started with two appetizers, the Kephi Cold Pikilia and the Kephi Tria.
A pikilia is a popular Greek dish that comes with a variety of appetizers. A long plate arrived with three types of dip: taramasalata, melitzanosalata and tzatziki, as well as kalamata olives and dolmades.
Taramasalata is a traditional Greek dip made from caviar. I was warned that some people found this dip a little off-putting, but I didn’t think the fish flavor was too overpowering. As I ran pieces of grilled pita through the rich, creamy dip, I got more hints of onion than anything else. Next, I tried the melitzanosalata, an eggplant dip. The texture reminded me of relish but the taste was light and refreshing thanks to the homemade olive oil and lemon juice. Finally, a familiar face was tzatziki. Kephi uses imported Greek yogurt and their extra house-made extra virgin olive oil, along with cucumber and garlic.
The dolmades took me back to my days at OU when I would drunkenly order from Souvlakis. I definitely had a greater appreciation for them sober. Kephi stuffs grape leaves with herbs and rice, creating a light vegetarian snack.
Shortly after the first set of appetizers arrived, the second plate rolled in. These were “hot mezze” and included, loukaniko, keftedes and spanakopita.
While I’m not a fan of breakfast sausage, I absolutely loved the loukaniko. The homemade pork sausage, flavored with orange peel, fennel and herbs, was less pungent than I was expecting (thanks in huge part to the orange peel).
I definitely got a strong, gamey flavor from the keftedes, which was a bummer because I love meatballs. Kephi’s keftedes are made with a mix of ground beef and lamb. I think I could have cut the intense flavor by dipping the meatball in a little bit of tzatziki. Too bad that was the first dip to disappear from our table.
I think I was most excited to try the spanakopita. I love spinach and the thought of a savory pastry definitely peaked my interest. The phyllo dough was soft and flaky, leading to the moist, cheesy spinach.
By the time we finished the appetizers, I was ready to tap out, but I still had my entrée coming. When I said that I ordered the Kephi Grinder, I was told, “you’re going to need a box.”
For $12, I was expecting a small sandwich, but what I got was about a 10” long, sub-style sandwich. Between the two pieces of fresh, homemade bread sat hand-carved beef and lamb, caramelized onions, tomatoes, goat cheese, lettuce and yogurt sauce.
Both the beef and lamb were tender and sang a flavorful tune thanks to herbs they were seasoned with. The caramelized onions added a welcome sweetness that complemented the creamy goat cheese and tangy yogurt sauce. The bread was toasted so outside had a nice crunch, while the inside remained soft to observe all of the liquids. No one likes a soggy sandwich.
The sandwich came with a side of fries that were cooked to perfection—crispy on the outside while hot soft on the inside. Dusted with seasonings, and I believe small crumbles of feta, my coworker couldn’t help but sneak a few off my plate. I was so full that I didn’t even mind.
If you noticed, I used the words “fresh” and “flavor” about 100 times. I cannot say enough just how good the food is. On top of everything, the price is hard to beat.
Typically, when ingredients are this fresh and even imported, the price goes up. Most of Kephi’s appetizers are priced under $10, with exception of the grilled octopus ($15) and the Kephi Tria ($12). Kephi also offers dishes straight from “Yia Yia’s Kouzina (kitchen),” as well as entrees from the land and sea that are more than reasonably priced.
While Williamsburg is full of American history, Kephi Greek Kitchen showcases what a melting pot this country has become.