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The Story Behind Ja Rule’s Comically Bad Greek Restaurant Commercial

Ja Rule image adapted from WebSummit on Flickr.

Recently, a video featuring rapper Ja Rule advertising for a Greek restaurant has made its way around the internet. The video, which has garnered over 3 million views on Twitter to date, shows Ja Rule going off for one of his favorite local restaurants, Papa Cristo’s.

For those unaware, Papa Cristo’s is a marketplace and a restaurant that’s been at the heart of the Greek community in Los Angeles for over 70 years. The owner, Chrys Chrys, is a local legend that fires up lamb chops, grilled octopus, and many other Greek specialties hard to find at most other restaurants.

While the viral video itself is mostly getting ripped by Twitter users for the editing (Ja Rule dancing in front of a green screen and slapping the owner’s head on some stock footage), the story behind it is actually pretty intriguing. Foodbeast reached out to Papa Cristo’s to learn more about the video and found that it was part of both a TV show and just general support Ja Rule wanted to give.

According to Papa Cristo’s, Ja Rule created the segment for something called “Pitch Perfect,” a show he created as part of TBS’s “Celebrity Showoff” series. Ja Rule and Chrys chat for a while before coming up with the ad, which the rapper hopes to use to bring light to Papa Cristo’s as well as supporting local restaurants in general.

The full clip will air on June 23rd on TBS, but you can view part of the show in the video above. Papa Cristo’s also mentioned that Ja Rule is helping to raise money for No Kid Hungry alongside supporting family-run local spots.

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Sample Greek Food Beyond The Gyro At Papa Cristo’s Legendary Greek Emporium

As a Greek American, one of my biggest qualms with the typical Greek restaurants in the United States is that they get lumped into a very small group of standardized dishes. People here judge a Greek restaurant for how well they grill meat, can make a gyro, or how sweet their baklava is.

There’s so much more to Greek food, however, but it is hard to find many of the lesser-known dishes. If your local Greek church has a food festival, it’s possible to find them there. For me, the best place to track them down is establishments that have been the heart of major Greek communities for generations.

On the West Coast of the United States, there’s really only one place that can serve as that: Papa Cristo’s, the Los Angeles market-restaurant that’s stood across from the city’s large Greek cathedral for over 70 years. It started as C&K Imports and was a marketplace to get all of your Greek needs at, from honey made at monasteries and tangy imported Feta to Greek spirits like ouzo and metaxa.

Later on, owner Chrys Chrys added on a restaurant space that served burgers and fries, but swapped it out for traditional Greek favorites in the early 90s. Since then, it’s also become one of the quintessential Greek eateries west of the Mississippi. Papa Cristo’s has gained this level of fame through their old school preparation methods, including slow-roasting their lamb and taking multiple days to make their roasted potatoes.

Chrys keeps standards like gyros and baklava in both the restaurant and marketplace, but it’s the rest of the menu that you should come to partake in. Papa Cristo’s grills up seafood just like back on the Greek islands, including baby octopus, tsipoura (Greek sea bream), shrimp, and calamari. What makes it more special is the berbere-spiced tahini it’s served with, which is sold in the marketplace and adds an aromatic, tangy touch to the seafood.

Other specials on the menu include loukomades, the anicent Greek precursor to donuts. You can get them drizzled with honey and walnuts or served with ice cream to make it a “sundae.” Chrys has also added more unique offerings, like “pitzas” (pita-based pizzas) topped with Greek loukaniko sausage or spanakopita (spinach pie) filling. On weekends, there’s hard-to-find eats like yemistes (stuffed tomatoes and bell peppers) and pastitsio (the Greek pasta bake that inspired lasagna) on offer as well. One cannot also pass on Papa Cristo’s without tasting their legendary lamb sandwich, a simple yet mouthwatering meal that has made the likes of Guy Fieri drool.

Papa Cristo’s has been the epicentre of the LA Greek community for generations. The old-school Greek food and the marketplace full of Greek essentials make it a treasure for Greeks like me looking for both a taste and feel of back home.

To discover more about the legend of Papa Cristo’s, you can view the full Foodbeast feature on the restaurant and marketplace in the above YouTube video.