Whether you feel like dancing between the tables or simply savoring the lamb and lemons that permeate this satisfying food, eating Greek is always an experience. These restaurants have all been recently reviewed; all prices exclude drinks.
GRANDIA PALACE (5657 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, (213) 462-8628.) This one’s a winner, offering good, fresh food at low prices. The place is also handsome and fun, a palace packed with Doric columns, bas-reliefs and classical Grecian statuary. The food is decidedly Greek in its balanced approach, clean taste and simple flavors. Meats, fish and free-range chickens are grilled. Lamb is roasted, the dinner salads so crisp they crackle. The Greek specialties, which change daily, include a super-light moussaka (layered eggplant, meat and bechamel) or pastitsio (macaroni layered with meat and cheese). All dishes come with an assortment of freshly steamed vegetables, such as okra, Chinese pea pods and broccoli. Tuesday night is Greek night, when dancing around the “Acropolis” is allowed. Lunch Mon.-Fri. 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m.; Dinner Mon.-Sun. 6:30 p.m.-midnight. Reservations. MasterCard and Visa. Full bar. Valet parking evenings. Dinner for two, $20-$40.
THE GREAT GREEK (13362 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, (818) 905-5250.) This place feels like a taverna--ouzo flowing, live music, a noisy spontaneity as diners join the waiters to dance in the aisles. On the walls are photos of every Greek actor who ever walked across a TV screen. A George Maharis-look-alike maitre d’ greets you warmly, especially if you’re a woman. The balalaika player makes music beautiful enough to make Zorba weep. Dining is somewhat informal, the menu a hodgepodge (pita bread, hummus, a dozen ornate desserts), everything a la carte. The appetizers seem to be their main strength, particularly the Greek salad, the spanakopeta , a very garlicky tzatziki . Lunch and dinner daily. Reservations. All major credit cards. Full bar. Valet parking. Dinner for two,
THE GREEK CONNECTION (401 N. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles, (213) 655-7214.) A restaurant for fun. It is polished and bright, and spirits here are high. There is music--constant, on some nights--and dancing. The food is not for the gods, exactly, but should please any ordinary mortal. The calamari are fine, the crust as light and as lacy as the best tempura. The Greek salad is less hearty than most, a careful hand on the olive oil. Dolmades are satisfactory, as is the spanakopeta . Lamb is well-done. There are a couple of special arrangements: The Platter, with an assortment of appetizers ($14.95 per person), and The Feast, with almost everything ($21.95 per person). Lunch and dinner daily. Reservations. All major credit cards. Full bar. Valet parking. Dinner for two, $40-$50.
LIGHTS ON (8022 West 3rd St., Los Angeles, (213) 658-7607.) At last, a place for nocturnal bingers and eternal club-hoppers. Lights On is a later-night (it’s open until the wee hours) extension of the adjacent Greek restaurant, Sofi. The cooking is homespun, a mixture of authentic Greek plates and continental interpretations. There is the unusual peinirli , a boat-shaped pizza filled to the brim with melted cheese and a couple of fried eggs on top. And there are phyllo triangles (filo dough turnovers) filled with sausage and mustard. Then, unexpectedly, there are grilled Polish and Italian sausages served with an unusual onion bread pudding. Then comes the calzone prepared Greek style with the peinirli pizza dough. Dinner nightly. Reservations. MasterCard and Visa. Back lot and street parking. Dinner for two, $15-35.
PAPADAKIS TAVERNA (201 West 6th St., San Pedro, (213) 548-1186.) Bigger, brighter and more upscale than you’d expect a taverna to be. Fun is definitely part of the program--witness the exuberant waiters (led by the maitre d’) dancing to loud, piped-in Zorba music. Even without the general frenzy, the food puts you in a good mood. The menu is heavy on meat dishes--saddle of lamb, rack of lamb, skewered lamb, lamb chops and braised lamb, as well as veal filets with kasseri in pastry and basil sauce, baked sea bass, and king crab leg in pastry with mustard sauce. Everything seems to be good: especially recommended are the anginares (artichoke hearts with cheese baked in filo); the moussaka (miraculously ungreasy lamb spiced with cinnamon); and the arni a la Papadakis (saddle of lamb, spinach and cheese in pastry). Lunch, Fri. only; dinner nightly. MasterCard and Visa. Wine and beer. Dinner for two, $30-$80.
SULTAN’S TABLE (1576 Newport Blvd., Costa Mesa, (714) 645-8560.) There’s a taverna ambiance at Sultan’s Table, with its rough-plastered walls, wood posts and beams. Crisp table cloths topped with fresh flowers and cloth napkins grace each table. The menu describes the fare as “authentic Middle Eastern cuisine,” but the accent is unmistakably Greek. The house specialty is charcoal broiled kebabs, made with California lamb marinated in olive oil. Adana koffte kebab, ground sirloin with chopped onions on a skewer, contrasts with its hot taste. Chicken breast marinated in lemon and olive oil is succulent. Shawirma , thinly shaved layers of lean, tightly packaged ground lamb and beef, skewered and broiled in an upright position, is flavorful with cumin and cayenne pepper. Service is warm and helpful. Lunch, Tue.-Fri.; dinner, Tue.-Sun. All major credit cards. Beer and wine. Lot parking. Dinner for two, $20-$40. UPSTAGE CAFE (3750 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, (213) 739-9913.) The Upstage Cafe is in the Wiltern Theater complex, thus its name--and thus sandwiches with names like Mark Taper and Dorothy Chandler. At noon the Cafe is jammed with people; at night, the crowd has dwindled to a few tables. Night is the best time to experience the cool gray colors, the gazebo-like structure of the main dining area and the small bright touches like fresh flowes and matching napkins. The menu is predominantly Greek: the keftedes (grilled meatballs) are juicy, tender and marvelous. Scampi here is not the usual garlicky presentation but a light dish of shrimp pan-fried until slightly crusty and mixed with tomatoes and feta cheese. Pastitsio and moussaka are hearty and homey. And the shish kebab, made with beef, chicken and pork, is not dolled up with heady seasonings to make it self-consciously exotic. Mon., 7 a.m-6 p.m.; Tue.-Fri., 7 a.m-9 p.m.; Sat., 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Reservations. Visa and MasterCard. Beer and wine. Lot and street parking. Dinner for two, $15-$30.