When it comes to the tastiest festival foods around, its hard to rival the spread of eats you can find at a local Greek festival.
Every summer, Greek churches put on these festivals, and the entire congregation gets involved. For a lot of them, that means showcasing authentic and delicious recipes for a ton of different traditional eats that are hard to find elsewhere.
As a Greek American who's participated (and cooked) for a lot of these functions, I've developed my own list of foods I have to try whenever I stop by a local Greek festival.
1) Fresh Roasted Lamb
Not everyone will roast lambs whole, so this might be a roasted leg of lamb or grilled lamb chops. Nonetheless, the slightly gamey flavor of perfectly cooked, tender lamb is hard to beat. It doesn't get fresher than ordering it from the festival grounds, and is best served with accoutrements like rice, horiatiki (Greek salad), and tangy feta cheese.
This is the holy grail of baked pasta dishes. Inside is makaronia, a long, hollow spaghetti noodle tossed in a savory, spiced keema (Greek meat sauce). The top is a thick, custard-like savory bechamel sauce. Served hot or cold, this is comfort food at its best.
Pastitsio is also one of those Greek dishes that's hard to find at a local restaurant (and even harder to get right at that level). Yiayias know best here, so festivals are one of the best ways for those new to the dish to enjoy it.
3) Greek Sweets
Greeks are well known for a wide variety of sweet treats, and many of these can be found at local festivals.
The biggest draw tends to be loukomades, an age old form of donuts served as early as the ancient Greek Olympics. These fried dough balls are soaked in a honey syrup, and then topped with cinnamon, walnuts, Nutella and more.
Some other sweets I really love to order at a Greek festival include Galaktoboureko and Portakalopita. The former is almost like a cheesecake, as it features a creamy custard surrounded by phyllo dough and then soaked in syrup. Portakalopita, on the other hand, is a simple yet scrumptious orange-infused cake.
You definitely need a drink to wash down all the Greek festival foods. While there's boozy options like ouzo and metaxa, I always opt for a refreshing Greek frappe. This is a frothy blend of instant coffee, sugar and water (or milk), that Starbucks wishes it could have invented first.
There's so much more food that Greek festivals have to offer, but the above is a great culinary crash course to get some of the tastiest morsels.
To find a Greek church hosting a Greek festival near you, this handy guide of every Greek festival happening in the United States should come in handy. It's updated annually, so you can come back to it every summer to see when the festivals are on.