Christos lunch buffet -- mystery and might


Christos lunch buffet is a force to be reckoned with. It sits in the center of Union Depot, one of the most beautiful spots you can dine in downtown St. Paul. You sit down to white tablecloths in the middle of a room of soaring columns and high ceilings. Tiny lights are draped around the tables adding a little magic to the meal. It's not hard to imagine the many wedding receptions and other special events that take place at this spot. What's that? Oh yes, and we haven't even gotten to the food...

The dishes at the buffet rotate, but there are some staples, like a soup offering, a salad, and gyro fixings. First the bad news: the vegetable puttanesca was unremarkable and the kota tis scharas (quartered chicken cooked in olive oil, oregano, and lemon juice) was too oily, but (here comes the good news), most everything else was incredibly tasty. Take the rice pilaf, cooked with golden raisins and hints of cinnamon, bayleaf and rosemary. It went well with the stifado (tomato-based beef stew), just soaking up all the tomato-y goodness. The tiny cubes of beef were soft and retained their meaty flavor.

The tabouli, made of chopped parsley, onion, tomato, mint, and bulgar (cracked wheat) was dressed with lemon juice and olive oil. I could live on such a tabouli. (Literally, if we played that game where you are stuck on a desert island and must pick one food to survive on, tabouli would be my pick. Something about all that parsley just makes you feel you've gone and done real good for yourself.)

The yellow lentil soup was thick, smooth, and well-seasoned; it warmed me up on a cold day. And to think, I almost forgot the gyro. The thin strips of the beef-lamb mixture are sliced off the rotisserie before being brought to the buffet table and served with warm wedges of soft pita. The meat is full (like each and every bite full) of flavor.

There's more, much more (it's a buffet!) -- chickpea salad, olives and pecorinos, crumbled feta, sliced tomato, red onion, refreshing tzatziki, tomato basil soup, vegetables in olive oil, carrots sliced and buttered, and a small piece of sweet and nutty baklava presented to you with your check. For $9.35, you can keep eating and eating until you feel it's been worth it.

Perhaps while there, you can solve this mystery. Strangely, during my visits to Christos Greek lunch buffet, I've never seen it all that busy. Are the depot's enormous proportions some sort of optical illusion, or do people really just not know it's out there?