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Friday, Jan. 18, 2008

Cafe of the Sun

Swift as Apollo

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Apollo, god of the sun, drove his chariot across the sky each day from dawn to dusk. The Apollo Cafe honors the ancient Greek myth by incorporating a solar motif throughout its interior design. A sun disk is worked into the mosaic on the cement floor, etched onto each of the stony tabletops, emblazoned onto the colorful fabric banners draped from the tall ceiling and projected in spiral traceries of light above the tiled counter. The high-roofed cafe, with its towering windows, leads the eye upward toward Apollo’s domain.

All of this would be worth a look but not a second visit if the food didn’t taste good. Fortunately, Apollo Cafe has become one of the many anchor points in the revitalized Brady Street neighborhood on the strength of its kitchen. It’s a busy place with, depending on the time of day, a steady stream or at least a trickle of customers picking up carryout or sitting down for a quick meal and some conversation. Apollo is strictly a counter-service restaurant and service is swift.

The food isn’t slowly prepared home cooking by any means, but the entrees reflect many old Greek recipes along with such Graeco-American innovations as Greek fries ($2.25), seasoned with a touch of oregano and sprinkled with grated feta cheese, along with a couple of black olives tossed in. No animal fats are used in the kitchen, making Apollo a healthy alternative. The olive oil is extra virgin and imported from Greece.

Entrees familiar from other Greek restaurants are on the menu, including the Eastern Mediterranean white sauce variation on lasagna, pastitsio ($7.75), and moussaka, made with layered eggplant, potatoes and spiced ground beef ($7.95). There are also unusual items such as tuna souvlaki ($7.45). And you could easily make a meal from the appetizers, including the saganaki ($5.25), flaming cheese doused in brandy; tiropita ($4.50), feta cheese pastry in phyllo dough; or the hummus with pita ($4.35).

Apollo is vegetarian friendly, offering a meatless dinner ($6.75) that features dolmades, rice wrapped in chewy grape leaves, along with a slice of spinach pie and a brimming salad with two kinds of lettuce, various peppers, tomatoes, shredded onions, black olives and chunks of feta. For dessert, try a piece of baklava ($2.50) and a tiny cup of highly caffeinated Greek coffee ($1.50).