Every year at Bele Chere a number of gyro vendors line the streets. To the untrained eye, they’re all alike. But if you’ve been to the Asheville Greek Festival, you know that Trinity Greek Orthodox Church’s booth is the only place to go for a mid-festival gyro.
Now that the last Belle Chere festival is over, those gyro pretenders have receded into the background, leaving the legitimate gyro to shine its tzatziki hued light across Asheville.
Holy Trinity’s gyros — and their accompanying lamb shanks, spanikopita, pastichio and more delights — are available just a couple of times a year, and the Greek Festival is the best time and place to eat them. On Friday, Sept. 27 through Sunday, Sept. 29, the Greek specialties will be accompanied by music, dancing, educational demonstrations and more.
“Greeks are famous for enjoying a party and enjoying a festival,” says Tommy Arakas, vice president of Holy Trinity. “Usually, when we have a party or festival, it’s centered around food.”
Arakas says he’ll be over by the Kafenion, or Greek coffee house, where he’ll be drinking a strong Greek brew with loukoumaddes, puff pastries topped with warm honey, chopped walnuts and cinnamon. “It’s something I never miss,” he says.
The church has put on the festival every year since 1986. It used to take place downtown, but for the last couple of years, it’s held at the 227 Cumberland Ave. church.
The location has been a trade-off, Arakas says. While the location isn’t as central, the food benefits from the festival’s proximity to the church kitchen. The congregation prepares far more than festival food. Baked pasta dishes, braised meats and delicate pastries are all on the menu. Expect an indoor hall and several outdoor tents full of food.
“The beauty of our festival is that we make everything from scratch here in Asheville,” Arakas says. “We have recipes that have been here for 70, 80 years.”
The festival begins each day at 11 a.m. On Friday and Saturday, Sept. 27 and 28, it runs until 9 p.m. On Sunday, Sept. 29, it ends at 7 p.m. Church tours and services will be ongoing throughout the event.
For more information about the festival and a full schedule of events, visit holytrinityasheville.com/greekfestival.