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Theo’s delivers plenty of bang for the buck

Menu prices

Appetizers begin at $7.95 for the artichoke and spinach dip, saganaki or our sautéed calamari, $10.95 for oysters Rockefeller to $19.95 for Theo’s, featuring fish, barbecue ribs, shrimp, chicken kebabs and zucchini. Steaks range from $20.95 for a pepper steak dish to $29.95 for a 28-ounce porterhouse or Theo’s special filet mignon. Veal and lamb dishes and barbecue ribs cost $18.95 to $28.95. Seafood entrees start at $18.95 for Alaskan red salmon, frog legs or lake perch and $22.95 for Gulf shrimp. My Mediterranean sea bass is $28.95. Pasta and chicken dishes, including my wife’s penne marisco ($16.95), cost $12.95 to $19.95. Desserts are $5 to $10.

Theo’s offers drink and wine specials, full bar service and a broad selection of cocktails, martinis and cordials, though not as many choices of beer as I would have imagined. Wine is available from $5 to $10 by the glass and from $20 to $75 by the bottle and includes international and Greek selections.

The night we dined there the dining specials included appetizer portions of fried smelt or octopus with Greek dressing for $9.95, petite filet mignon with four fried butterfly shrimp or my sea bass for $28.95.

If you go

◆ Theo’s Steak & Seafood

◆ 9144 Indianapolis Blvd., Highland

◆ Open for lunch and dinner 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and noon-9 p.m. Sunday.

◆ Reservations accepted; call 838-8000

Maps

Updated: April 24, 2012 8:07AM



Theo’s Steak & Seafood in Highland is a classic Northwest Indiana steakhouse restaurant with a Greek accent, a place that serves large portions of well-prepared food, delivered with fine, attentive service by people who know what they’re doing.

Theo’s, which has been remodeled since we last dined there, is a stylishly spare and cleanly designed restaurant.

But we chose to dine outdoors on this balmy, unseasonably warm March evening whose magic even the passing traffic on Indianapolis Boulevard could not diminish.

Theo’s appetizer list leans heavily toward seafood, which, during this Lenten season, we found particularly appealing. Oysters and shrimp are prepared several different ways, and Greek favorites like saganaki (flaming cheese pie), are also offered. We began by ordering one of our favorites, the calamari, or squid. While we waited, we slathered the port wine cheese dip on slices of crusty bread and drank in the last golden evening light. In an effort to reduce calories, I ordered the calamari sautéed instead of deep-fried. A handful among the generous serving were lightly crisp and flavorful from the spiced breading. However, most were mushy in texture with the breading soft and clumpy. Sautéing the squid was a great idea, but ours were unevenly cooked and disappointing. Next time I’ll go deep-fried.

Owner Ted Klideris continues to offer his patrons a lot of bang for their buck, with both soup and salad included in the entrée price. My wife’s lemon rice soup, a Greek staple, was thick and satisfying and my clam chowder included plenty of diced clam and vegetables in a sturdy broth. Her dinner salad was more than adequate, but for $2 more my Greek salad was like an Aegean Island flavor cruise, featuring anchovies, feta cheese, Kalamata olives, purple onions, peppers and other goodies. “Poyee yevsi!” (very delicious) I exclaimed with the only Greek I know that doesn’t involve body parts.

In keeping with our vow to go meatless, my wife ordered the penne marisco, which sounds like it should have included fish or shrimp (“marisco” is the Spanish word for seafood), but instead included large numbers of artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes, mushrooms, sweet peppers, Greek olives and al dente cooked tubular pasta in a garlic-infused olive oil-based sauce that was as gorgeous to see as it was to taste. This was a fine pasta dish in which the vegetables were the stars. In my wife’s case, the sun-dried tomatoes should have been smaller stars — cut into smaller pieces. Their intensity overpowered everything else in the bowl, but that’s a suggestion, not a complaint. I’d recommend this dish whether you’re avoiding meat or just love vegetables.

From a small specials menu I ordered the whole Mediterranean sea bass, which tugged at my culinary heart like a treble-hooked lure. Theo’s couldn’t have cooked this fish more perfectly. The skin, which had been beautifully salted, seasoned and rubbed with garlic, was crisp enough to eat like a decadent snack. It protected the tender and juicy white flesh that offered rich flavor in every bite. I even devoured the salty, crunchy tail, an act that horrified my mother when I was a kid before Heimlich made it safer to swallow bones. Our fine server, D.J., offered to filet my fish, but I declined, preferring to remove everything myself. That comes with a little risk, as a few bites included toothpick size bones my tongue was smart enough to discern before my avaricious teeth could attack in earnest. Be forewarned, this is a terrific experience, but I’d recommend the tableside deboning for all but seasoned fishermen.

Theo’s version took me back to a journey I made as a young man to Greece . I remember dining at small eateries on the Adriatic or Aegean , reveling in the homemade retsina wine, dining on fish and vegetables fresh that day. Tasting that sea bass revived that link so clearly I could almost smell the ocean salt in the evening breeze.

My Greek rice, which I chose as a side dish starch, included rice topped with a Greek tomato sauce redolent with cinnamon, a wonderful treat. And the sautéed vegetables, which included broccoli, cauliflower, carrots and sweet peppers, were very satisfying.

Theo’s, which doesn’t prepare its desserts in house, offers a huge slice of carrot cake for two the size of a Caribbean island. Other desserts are apple pie, turtle cheesecake, chocolate mousse cake and tiramisu cake, as well as several Greek sweets like baklava. While our desserts were pleasant enough, they tasted blandly ordinary, almost manufactured. The tiramisu cake included a hint of coffee and too much creamy filling.



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