Greek to seek

Close your eyes to Patsio's coffee shop decor and its setting on a busy street -- for a moment, you might imagine yourself in an authentic Greek kitchen. But in the light of day, it's clear this is no Hellenic taverna where Mediterranean wine flows and folk music plays. Nor is this the place to go for a top-of-the-line Greek meal. Patsio's is a 24-hour diner complete with the vinyl booths, '70s earth tones in the color scheme, and apron-clad waitresses who hustle up and down the aisles with coffee pots, doling out refills. And the kitchen turns out some pretty decent cheap eats.

Most of the American fare is well-executed visit after visit, from the humble corned beef hash and eggs to two-fisted burgers and patty melts. There also are some Italian lasagna and spaghetti dinners to round things out. But Greek is what's interesting here.

The jumbo Greek Salad ($5.39) makes an excellent appetizer for the whole table, and this is such a mountain of food, it really should be tackled by at least two people anyway. Garden fresh tomatoes are snuggled into a mound of greens, along with cucumber, onions, Greek peppers, briny olives and healthy hunks of feta cheese. Crowned on top is a scoop of highly seasoned Greek potato salad. Another appetizer is so rich it should be divvied into two or three portions as well: A delicate packet of spanakopita spinach pie features flaky phyllo dough wrapped around a filling of spinach, eggs and feta cheese ($3.29).

The Greek Combo Platter ($7.49) successfully lumps together the best of the menu, including a wedge of pastizio, a ground beef and pasta casserole topped with bèchamel sauce, which has a mousse-like consistency. There also are dolmades, little burrito style rolls that make for rich, tangy finger food. Each marinated grape leaf is fastened around a tubular stuffing of warm, seasoned rice and ground beef. Dip them in tzatziki, a creamy chilled concoction of yogurt, cucumbers and garlic.

The exception to all of this is the gyro portion of the platter -- when we visited, the thin-sliced meats were dry and flavorless. The combo platter also includes a wedge of moussaka, an eggplant casserole that embraces a melange of seasoned beef and tomato sauce flavors -- but it's so good that it really needs to be ordered on its own as a fullmeal ($6.79).

Finally, you must end your meal with the baklava; and please, skip the death-by-chocolate version and opt for the traditional recipe with honey-soaked phyllo dough, littered with chopped nuts ($1.35).

Service is not suave, but it is friendly and efficient enough to keep most everyone happy. But non-smokers should be forewarned; this restaurant is so small that no matter where you sit, you'll be within a few steps of the so-called smoking section. If one customer lights up, everyone else has to deal with it.

Patsio's menu is more eclectic than typical diner fare, and most of the Greek food is respectable enough to quell any doubters who hesitate to try ethnic food. This is a particularly good restaurant to try late at night when your group can't agree on what to eat.

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