Food of the Gods

No Greektown?  No problem with these five Mediterranean mainstays
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Photograph by Jessica Boone

Los Angeles doesn’t have an official Greektown like the famous ones in Chicago and Detroit. So it may seem as if we have a shortage of outlets where you can down shots of ouzo, throw a few plates, shout opa!, and find moussaka and spanakopita. But local fans of Greek food know better. Many people fill their cravings for dolmas or saganaki at Papa Cristo’s on Pico Boulevard and Papadakis Taverna in San Pedro. But don’t overlook these other long-running family-owned restaurants, where the souvlaki is always juicy, the tzatziki tangy, and desserts like baklava and kataifi are sticky sweet.

Alexis Greek Restaurant | Northridge
Alexis Kavvadias’s 36-year-old restaurant evolved when his Portuguese-born wife, Fatima, came on board. The candlelit dining room is more elegant, and the wine list and menu are more diverse. She’s added several Portuguese favorites: broiled chicken with peppery pri pri sauce, a fabulous coelho estufado (braised rabbit), and a selection of international pastries. » 9034 Tampa Ave., Northridge, 818-349-9689. Map

Firehouse | Tarzana
With GYROS painted in huge letters on its exterior, you can’t miss this former fire station turned casual self-serve restaurant where the food is authentically home style. The most expensive entrée, lamb, is slow roasted overnight, sliced off the bone, and served with pilaf, salad, and pita, yet the dish—probably enough for two—is only $12. Vegetarian plates brim with Mediterranean flavors, and the chicken and lamb souvlaki are always moist. » 18459 Victory Blvd., Tarzana, 818-881-3118. Map

George’s Greek Cafe | Long Beach
In the ’60s, when Long Beach still had a large Greek community, George Loizides ran the retail store S & J Greek Importing. Today he owns two cafés with son Demetri, who oversees the kitchens. The Belmont Shore branch spills out onto the sunny sidewalk, where flames leap from saganaki cheese and Greek wines get paired with faves like stuffed grape leaves and marinated grilled lamb chops. » 5316 E. 2nd St., Long Beach, 562-433-1755. Map Also at 318 Pine Ave., Long Beach, 562-437-1184. Map

Olympus Greek Tavern | North Hollywood
We’d recommend a visit to this 16-year-old NoHo spot for the decorations alone—every wall holds an ocean scene or tchotchke like the revolving windmill. But the tart, eggy avgolemono soup, fresh-as-spring tabbouleh, al dente Greek-style pastas, and fluffy pita shipped in from Chicago are this establishment’s real draw. » 6304 Laurel Canyon Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-766-4100. Map

Taverna Tony | Malibu
Whether you sit on the patio or by the fireplace, there are few better places for a languid meal of meze—tapas-style dishes—or entrées like rotisserie meats and the steamy seafood soup. They remind us of just how delicious Greek food can be. » Malibu Country Mart, 23410 Civic Center Way, Malibu, 310-317-9667. Map

Photograph by Jessica Boone