Hours: Lunch, 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Monday through Friday; dinner, 5 to 10 p.m., Monday through Saturday; opening Sundays starting Sept. 18.
Atmosphere: Casual Mediterranean.
Price range: Dinners from $7.95; children's menu from $2.95.
Reservations: Recommended for weekends or large groups.
Credit cards: American Express, MasterCard, Visa.
Special facilities: Booster seats; highchairs; catering; free parking; some difficulty for wheelchairs.
Bright, cheery and Mediterranean, the Phoenix is a happy 85-seat Greek restaurant well suited to the family out for food that is good and out of the ordinary.
Although the restaurant appears to have once been a fast food outlet, the interior now resembles a lovely Greek country home. The attentive care of the owner is evident in the whitewashed walls, handsome tiled floor, polished wood, oil paintings and fresh flowers.
The owner and host of this seven-year-old family restaurant is Harry Sliakas. A more loquacious or hospitable spokesman for the delights of Greek cuisine would be hard to find. He led my wife and me, our two children, a friend and his 15-year-old daughter to a long table in the middle of the room.
Sliakas' pleasantries were followed by attentive service from a waitress clearly interested in pleasing her customers. She explained dishes, took our orders and brought our food with alacrity even though the hall became filled with customers halfway through our meal and it would have been easy to forget us.
The menu includes eight appetizers, seven Greek specialty dishes, eight seafood dishes, two meatless dinners and a steak for persons who simply can't live without beef. There is a children's menu for kids who turn up their noses at ethnic dishes that includes perfectly serviceable American versions of burgers and spaghetti ($2.95 to $3.35).
We began our meal with a series of appetizers suggested by the host: a heaping plate of feta cheese and kalamata olives ($2.25), chilled hors d'oeuvres ($3.75) and hot hors d'oeuvres ($4.25). They were accompanied by a nice selection of bread, including fresh, warm pita bread. Cold stuffed vine leaves, olives, a yogurt dip, spinach pie, cheese pie, spicy sausages and tangy meatballs were all so good we almost ordered more.
Cooler heads prevailed and we tackled the daily special instead. It was an order of delicious fresh, hot calamari, accompanied by a good-sized house salad ($8.25).
A Greek combination platter ($8.50) satisfied some of the smaller persons. It was a big platter filled with hot spinach pie, stuffed cabbage, a meat casserole and a rich eggplant and meat order so typical of the Greek dining experience.
The shish kebab ($9.50), lean braised lamb chunks, grilled green peppers, onions and mushrooms served on a rice pilaf, was finer than any we've had in Greece.
Veal santorini ($9.50), a tasty, firm and flavorful piece of veal sauteed and brought piping hot to the table with lemon and butter, won the applause of all hands.
Shrimp a' la saronis ($9.95) featured sauteed jumbo shrimp in a feta cheese sauce over a bed of rice and parsley.
Our thirst was quenched by soft drinks (85 cents) and a bottle of white wine ($10.50). For dessert we had cream caramel and baklava ($1.50 each) that were out of this world. And as if that weren't pleasant enough, Sliakas sent over another bottle of wine on the house and we found ourselves caught up in a crescendo of festivity and fun. Mandolin and piano players arrived and softly serenaded us during the meal, but as the night wore on and the wine bottle emptied, the pace and tempo of their music increased.
They were really first-rate musicians whose old Greek folksongs and ballads were wonderfully stated. But they soon switched to fast-paced love songs and those crazy cacophonous Greek melodies that set one's head whirling. What else could we do after such a fine meal but get up and dance?
So the children saw the adults making like Zorba the Greek in the center of the room on a tiny dance floor (provided, presumably, for just such spontaneous outbursts). Soon enough our waitress joined us and then Sliakas and another family.
On the ride home the kids couldn't believe what the big folks did and we discussed our evening and the $73.86 (for six of us) dinner tab.
The chemistry had worked perfectly, and when the budget gets back into balance, who knows? Maybe it will happen again.