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Decidedly Flaky

Is this the best baklava in town?

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Somebody has to find a better name for a little bakery and cafAc near the corner of Patterson Avenue and Pump Road. The name “Greek-4-You” lacks any sort of evocative power. I can probably come up with five names less prosaic than this one, and I'm not even Greek. Not that a restaurant's name necessarily must have resonance, but it's nice when it does.

George and Katherine Kamaratos' little cafAc really does deserve better. It's a tiny space, full of pictures of Greece on the walls, a clutch of tables and a bakery case at the back. In this case lies a myriad of pleasures: baklava, kayrydopita and powdery Greek wedding cookies among them. Karydopita is a walnut cake, and a deep brown slice is moist and sweet with a hint of cloves. The outstanding baklava, a celebrity in the dessert world that here lives up to its hype, is a honey-soaked triangle of ground walnuts and layers of phyllo that somehow manage to be crispy and dripping at the same time.

When you open the door at lunchtime, the scent of freshly baked bread wafts past. Slices from the round, floury loaves bookend the sandwiches, but the traditional Greek entrees are the real strength of the place.

Lunch specials are a bargain at $6.99 for both an entrAce and a side of crisp-tender green beans swimming in a pool of tomato sauce full of olive oil and dill. Fava beans are another choice as a side but they desperately need salt, and the chopped flat-leaf parsley isn't enough to save them.

On the entrAce front, the pastichio is a wide rectangle of tubular pasta, beef and tomato sauce fragranced with cinnamon, and a thick layer of fluffy bAcchamel on top. Moussaka is a close cousin, but it's a heartier dish with thin layers of eggplant supporting the beef, tomato and bAcchamel layers — and it makes me feel a little less indulgent by packing in a vegetable in the midst of all the creaminess and juicy ground beef filling. For just a dollar more, you can add a cup of the thick avgolemono, a lemony chicken soup augmented with orzo.

Stuffed cabbage wraps a sweet layer of green around a simple, spiced-beef-and-rice mixture, but, although based on the same culinary principle, the stuffed grape leaves don't fare as well. A cascade of hard rice falls immediately out of the vinegary grape leaves and no amount of tzatziki can save them. 

The spanakopita is equally disappointing. Where is the feta? Where is the garlic? Not even a smidgen of dill? The phyllo crackles nicely but I get the feeling that someone got distracted in the kitchen and left out a few key ingredients. The tiropita, another phyllo roll, this time wrapped around a creamy, tart cheese filling, makes up for all of the elements lacking in the spanakopita. In fact, if you smushed the two together, you could come up with something spectacular.

We Richmonders are pretty well-versed in the intricacies of Greek cuisine. We've had plenty of Greek restaurants from which to choose, for better or worse. And the annual bacchanal of eating, drinking and looking for a place to park that is the Greek Festival (May 28-31 — mark your calendars!) has evolved into a sort of Richmond culinary gauge.

Greek-4-You serves both much better and slightly worse fare than the Greek Festival. If you pick your dishes with care, you'll have an excellent lunch. Even better, everything on the menu can be purchased cold and then heated later for a Greek feast at home. Greek-4-You may have a few rough spots and an uninspired name, but it packs in the ladies for lunch and will always make me swerve involuntarily into its parking lot to answer the siren call of its amazing baklava.  S
 
Greek-4-You

10604 Patterson Ave.
612-3200
Monday-Thursday: 10 a.m.-7 p.m.
Friday & Saturday: 10 a.m.-9 p.m.
Sunday: Noon-5 p.m.
Nonsmoking and handicapped accessible

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