Crowd savors Greek specialties at Merrillville fest
By Michelle L. Quinn Post-Tribune correspondent July 12, 2014 9:40PM
Anastasia Kavadas fills the trays at the sweets table with more Diples at the Saints Constantine & Helen Greekfest in Merrillville on July 12, 2014. | Jim Karczewski/For Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 13, 2014 2:08AM
MERRILLVILLE — Chuck “Mr. Loukamades” Fisher said he can walk by a pile of delectable Greek doughballs anywhere and know if they’re going to be good or not.
The official loukamades maker of eight years has yet to find any that are as world-class as the ones at Saints Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Cathedral’s annual Greek Fest, going on this weekend on the church grounds. And he’s tested many a one.
“We went to one in Cape Cod, and …” Fisher said Saturday, making a face to finish his point. “I’ve even been to the one in Chicago where they close Greektown, and I wouldn’t buy them because they were ugly. They might’ve tasted good, but no.”
Fisher, who said his name’s short for “Logethetis” — his wife’s maiden name — said his wife taught him how to make the fried favorites, and then he just took over the job from her. He loves perfecting the recipe and hearing how his hard work pays off.
“It’s all the compliments we get. I’ve been told these are the best in the country,” Fisher said.
In its 45th year, there’s not a whole lot that’s changed at the fest. The massive baked goods table did feature copeni, a treat similar to the beloved baklava that uses almonds instead of walnuts and has a layer of sponge cake in it, said Jan, the woman in charge. Other delights, like the almond cookies with real almond paste, are a staple.
“They’re a favorite when you go to Greece,” she said.
Typically, the baked goods alone bring in at least $20,000, Jan said.
The women running the food line in the church, meanwhile, make sure to have a good time while they systematically dole out tons of lamb, gyros and kebabs. Petroula Makaroudis of Crown Poin, encouraged people to take home their leftovers.
“They can’t eat all the chicken,” Makaroudis said as the man grabbed his Styrofoam. “It’s Greek. They like it.”
Sharing their culture with the world makes Greek Fest worth it to the women, who’ve worked the food line for anywhere from 10 to 30 years, give or take. Each year, foodies can expect the same ladies.
“Greeks are fun people,” Makaroudis said. “That’s why we always have such a crowd.”
“It’s where everyone can be Greek for three days without leaving the country,” said Jennifer Agoris, also of Crown Point, the youngest server on the line.
The 45th annual Saints Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Cathedral Greek Fest continues from noon to 11 p.m. Sunday.