While rich in history, having been developed as part of the Llano Estacodo Texas & Pacific Railroad expansion, the West Texas Petroplex area, known as the Permian Basin, is not noted for its culture. Steak, potato and beer restaurants or Tex-Mex food the norm, and there are some great ones out that way, it has only been recently this area of the state has begun to offer a wider selection of ethnic restaurants that could rival the larger cities.
Hidden in the downtown area of one of the largest cities in the Permian Basin — Odessa, Texas — is an unexpected treasure that many, even in Odessa, do not know exists: a European Cuisine restaurant called Yana 615. Nestled in amongst the houses that have been converted to commercial attorney’s or doctor’s offices, Yana 615 is easily one of Odessa’s best kept secrets.
Yana 615 is located at 615 N. Sam Houston, in Odessa, Texas, in a primarily residential looking neighborhood that has been zoned commercial. This small house, converted for the purposes of the restaurant, was once owned by one of the many large oil companies in the Petroplex area, and was used to house the oilfield hands who came into town to work. Adorning the walls of this establishment, the Croatian owner of Yana 615 has posted old photographs of the house prior to her having it renovated for the restaurant, along with other memorabilia and history.
After parking, which is primarily on the street (my one and only complaint about the establishment), you can walk up to the small, cottage-like house (see photos), on a sidewalk lined with bright and colorful flowers and plants, even during the winter months. The house is attractive, neat, and charming with a nice landscaping job in the front to make it appear inviting.
The front foyer of the restaurant is nothing more than a small hallway from the original house, and during busy lunchtime, it is not unusual to see a line extending out the door waiting for seating. While the size of the restaurant makes it small and cozy, with the ‘feel’ of a home environment, the seating is limited, and the restaurant is popular enough with the professional workforce in the downtown area that it is difficult at lunchtime to be seated immediately, so you want to be sure to get there early for lunch.
If I had one complaint about the restaurant, it would be that the tables and chairs are very close together, making it difficult to maneuver through the restaurant, and exiting the restaurant through the same door where patrons enter, with the lines extending down the sidewalk, is awkward at best.
However, once you make it inside, you are greeted by friendly wait staff and your party will be seated. According to the staff, the prime seating is in the back of the restaurant, past the kitchen and serving area, where you will find a handful of tables in a sun room, with a view of the lush and neatly landscape back yard.
Each of the chairs and tables in the restaurant are different. Some are antique looking, with glass table tops, and some are solid wood tables, while the chairs range from high back cloth to metal frames with cushions. One employee pointed out that one of the tables was actually an antique sewing machine table, hand selected by the owner, complete with foot pedals. The effect is somewhat of a patchwork quilt type of style to the seating, and actually adds to the ambiance of the quaint style of the little tea-room like restaurant. The décor is neat, clean, and very attractive, with unusual artwork, fresh and dried floral arrangements, and unique decorations on an antique buffet.
Once seated, your drink order will be taken. You can choose from a variety of canned sodas, served with a glass of ice; or from one of the fragrant herbal or flavored brewed iced teas, such as raspberry or peach, or the one we tried, Mango Spice Teas; regular iced tea; or coffee. When the wait staff returns with your drink order, you will receive a small bowl with warmed butter and a plate of bakery fresh, round bread pieces as an appetizer, at no cost.
The menu consists of light-hearted fare: salads with light or vinegar dressings, chicken salads, pita type sandwiches and soups on the lighter side, with pasta dishes, pork medallions, and chicken crepes (Chicken Palacinka) on a slightly heavier side.
While the menu boasts European Cuisine, the meals are not odd or unusual, simply prepared in non-traditional American ways. All meals except salads and sandwiches are served with a small side salad, with a fabulous house vinegar and spice dressing, a side of steamed white rice, and roasted and seasoned potatoes.
The food portions are average in size, perfect for lunch, which is great since the restaurant is only open from 11 am – 2:30 pm, Sunday through Friday, closed on Saturday.
With the meal over, now the best part of Yana 615 is yet to come. With nearly three (3) full pages of decadent, European desserts, including Lady Fingers, Russian Tea Room Cheesecake, Tiramasu, Mascarpone Torte, Crème Brule, Italian Cream Cakes, Maltese Sherry Cake, and more, you are sure to find something to suit your taste. The hard part is deciding on only one.
If these aren’t your style, they also have more traditional desserts such as Orange Cake, a dripping Chocolate Layer Cake, Carrot Cake, and many others, including just plain vanilla ice cream and coffee. You might just want to skip the meal entirely and head straight to the back of the menu and order a variety of dessert treats.
Prices are reasonable, with an entire meal, drink and dessert in the $10-12 dollar range, depending on what you order. Yana 615 accepts all major credit cards, checks, and cash payments. The food is served very quickly, which makes up for some of the wait time to get a seat, and the restaurant only takes reservations for large parties or special events.
If you are ever in downtown Odessa, Texas, Yana 615 is a must try for something new or different, and you simply have to check out their dessert menu – there’s nothing like it anywhere else in Odessa. The restaurant gets a full 4 ½ stars from this reviewer for quality, ambiance, price, menu, and taste.