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A group of diners dig into various dishes around a table.
Bar Vlaha is ready for its debut.

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At This Rustic Greek Restaurant, Spit-Roasted Lamb and Savory Pies Are the Life of the Party

Bar Vlaha has arrived, along with its celebrations of regional Grecian dining

Erika Adams is the editor of Eater Boston.

Regional Greek food in America has yet to see its heyday, but a local Greek restaurant group is aiming to change the cuisine’s trajectory. Starting this week, Boston will be home to what may be the first restaurant in the U.S. to celebrate the food of the Vlachs, an ethnic group of nomadic shepherds in northern and central Greece. “It’s kind of the Greece that’s a little off the beaten track,” says culinary director Brendan Pelley.

In the mountainous areas where the restaurant draws its inspiration, spit-roasted meats, braised dishes, and foraged foods are markers of the cuisine. At Bar Vlaha in Brookline, that translates into a menu that highlights rustic, homey, stick-to-your-ribs country cooking. Beef cheeks, chickpeas, and wild boar shoulder are all found on a section of the menu dedicated to traditional braised fare, based on village dishes that would typically be baked in a clay pot in a communal oven. The savory pitas are stuffed with foraged fare like mushrooms and spring onions. Diners are encouraged to dig into juicy slabs of roasted lamb with their hands. This is not a small plates affair: The braised and roasted meats and dense and buttery pies could each be the star of their own show. “We want you to feel you’re eating food that has a lot of love in it,” Pelley says.

Similar to the group’s other runaway hits — including Greek restaurant and wine bar Krasi and its subterranean cocktail bar Hecate in Back Bay — the environment at Bar Vlaha feels like it could spark an impromptu party at any moment. It’s the sort of place to bring a big group of people and share everything on the table, or keep coming back to work your way through the menu. “There’s a lot of hearty dishes here but they are meant to be passed around the table and shared with one another,” Pelley says. “And the idea is that you come to Bar Vlaha and you try a few things, and then you come back — like later that week — and there’s always more stuff to try.”

Nearby diners are already gearing up for that idea. During a recent trial run for dinner service, a pair of passersby poked their heads into the restaurant while the night was in full swing. “Is it open yet?” they asked. “Can we come in?” They’ve been eagerly waiting for the public unveiling from their home three blocks away.

Now, the wait is over. Take a look around Bar Vlaha ahead of its opening on March 23.

A high-ceilinged dining room with neutral-colored tables and chairs.
Sunlight pours into the dining room during the day.
A light-colored bar with backless, cushioned stools and a high back wall filled with liquor bottles.
A view of the equally sunlit bar.
A banquette, wooden tables, chairs, and place settings in an array of natural hues.
A cozy banquette runs along one wall of the dining room.
The back of the dining room with a long table set up in front of the open kitchen. Three cooks are busy behind the kitchen counter.
Get a front-row seat to all the fiery action from the chef’s table, which overlooks the open kitchen.
A wooden kitchen hutch filled with tins of dried goods, pantry staples, and dishes on display.
Bar Vlaha is full of homey touches, including this hutch filled with dishes, wine, pantry staples, and trinkets. It’s meant to resemble what one might find inside the home of a yia yia, or Greek grandmother.
A knitted decorative fabric hangs over the host stand at the front of the restaurant.
The host stand is decorated with traditional Vlach embroidery from artist Porfyria Moschopoulou, a textile and pattern designer from Greece.
Two Greek porcelain figures are set up on top of the back wall of the bar.
These Greek figurines are traditional bottles of brandy from Metaxa, the historic Greek spirits company.
Two people stand at a table, looking at each other and laughing.
Xenia Greek Hospitality CEO Demetri Tsolakis and Bar Vlaha’s executive chef Kathryn McCoart share a moment before dinner service begins.
Two hunks of bone-in lamb roasting on a steel spit over coals.
The impressive spit, where meat is roasted over a charcoal flame, is the real showpiece of the kitchen, Pelley says.
Two people on either end of a steel rod pull meat off the center of it.
McCoart and kitchen staffer Ever Lopez pull lamb off the spit.
A wooden slab filled with lamb pieces, relish, a lemon half, and flaky white salt.
The finished product.
Three cooks in black uniforms tend the oven and stoves in the kitchen.
Bar Vlaha’s pitas, or pies, are all cooked inside a wood-burning oven in the center of the open kitchen.
A person carrying three plates of food heads towards a table filled with diners in the background of the photo.
Thick slices of manitaropita, a traditional mushroom pie, are brought out to diners.
A basket wrapped in a white cloth holds slices of bread and a small cup of whipped butter.
Baker Andrew Dickason is responsible for all the baked goods at the restaurant, including this psomi, or bread, made with Pelley’s decade-old sourdough starter. “Really good bread is the cornerstone of the menu here,” Pelley says.
A spread of dishes with pieces of the alevropita arranged on a patterned dish in the center of the table.
The alevropita is a thin, crispy pie baked in an olive oil-coated tin and topped with fistfuls of feta and lots of high-quality butter. “I was just blown away by how good it was,” Pelley says of trying the pie during a research trip in Greece.
A hand dips a piece of sourdough bread into a fluffy white dip garnished with olive oil and green herbs.
A hunk of bread goes for a dunk in the galotyri, a soft, spreadable cheese made with sheep and goat’s milk.
A hand takes a bronze spoon and scoops up a bit of cake and blood orange sorbet from a clear small plate.
Don’t forget dessert — especially this galatopita, or ruffled milk pie with blood orange sorbet.
Tickets lined up on a wooden bar with plates and other dishes in the foreground.
Dinner service gets underway.
Containers of dips and spreads are organized behind the kitchen counter.
The aloifes, or spreads, are a crucial start to the meal.
A man with glasses stands smiling at the camera.
Culinary director Brendan Pelley.
A woman stands with her arms crossed, slightly smiling at the camera.
Executive chef Kathryn McCoart.
A man stands in a black uniform pouring a brown liquid into a cocktail glass.
Bar manager Alex Tzovaras.
A man stands leaning against a windowed wall with his hands together and smiling at the camera.
General manager Tomas Watler.
Three people, two sitting and one standing, are smiling at the camera.
The restaurant group’s leadership team: Demetri Tsolakis (CEO), Christopher Marcin (director of restaurant operations), and Tasha Breshinksy (vice president of operations).
The light colored exterior of the restaurant with a mural of a Greek woman in an orange covering painted onto the building.
Bar Vlaha opens on March 23.

Bar Vlaha is located in Brookline at 1653 Beacon Street. Reservations are available here.

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