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The food is not exceptional, but dinner is easy on the wallet at Dena's.

The Price is Right

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When you go to a certain kind of restaurant, you're willing to forgive almost anything: slights in service, unforeseen delays for a table. The food, after all, is worth it. And that's what you're there for. Unless, of course, it isn't what you're there for. At , on Midlothian Turnpike across from Chesterfield Towne Center, our service was good and the 30-minute wait understandable — the place was slammed. But the thing we couldn't figure out was why so many people would wait so long in line. What's more, it seems that a wait is not unusual. According to one patron who stood in the air-lock foyer along with us, "Sometimes it's like this. But it's worth it." Well, I guess it depends on what you're after. My wife and I were after some sort of exceptional food experience that would explain the situation. What we got was diner food with Greek and Italian accents. [image-1](Stacy Warner / richmond.com) Dena's menu choices include seven kinds of veal ($12.95, $13.95), 14 pastas (10 of them are spaghetti — $7.50-$9.95), five Greek signature dishes including moussaka, spanakopita, shish kebab, and something called pastichio (a kind of lasagne with meat and cheese, and topped with a butter and white wine sauce), and several surf and turf items ($9.95-$13.95). We got the lasagne, since we had heard someone speak highly of it in line, and the moussaka, a Greek classic. Trying to work our way around the menu, we also got two cups of soup ($1.50 each): cream of spinach with feta, and the "Greek Specialty Soup Chicken Lemon." We also got an appetizer sampler of dolmades (stuffed grape leaves), tiropita (baked filo dough stuffed with feta), and spanakopita (filo dough stuffed with spinach and feta), with a kind of potato-based dipping sauce called taramasalata. And though that was plenty of food, we were sufficiently intrigued by something called saganaki, which the menu describes as "flamed cheese, prepared at your table" ($4.25). The appetizers were good. The spinach feta soup was very heavy and needed some desalination. The chicken lemon soup was more of a consommé with orzo at the bottom, and was generally good. The flamed cheese is a little unusual, sort of an open-air fondue. The cheese itself is a mildly sharp cross [image-2](Stacy Warner / richmond.com) between Muenster and regular white cheddar, and is sliced in chunky strips. The waitress pours high-octane rum over it and strikes a match. You can either let it burn or douse it with the lemon half that comes with it. We let it burn which resulted in a nice semisoft, lightly smoked treat. As for the entrees: The lasagne is the one to get. The sauce is nice and tangy and the portion magnificent. Unfortunately, the moussaka collapses under its own weight. It comes topped with a ponderously heavy layer of custard that smothers the eggplant and ground beef. And the bechamel sauce is just too much. For dessert, we passed on the baklava but shared the galatobouriko, which is kind of a Greek crÅ me brulee: a custard set between two layers of filo dough and drizzled with a thin syrup. It was OK but we couldn't finish. All in all, it was a lot of food, and it was OK, but we still couldn't figure out why everybody was there. And then it came: the bill. Our whole dinner cost only $49, and that goes a long way toward explaining why the place is so popular with the ice-tea-or-lemonade-with-dinner crowd, and with folks who object to the often exorbitant cost of a dinner out. On the other hand, usually the experience and the food merit the high cost. But in this case, the old adage holds: You get what you pay for.

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