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Plaka Taverna

In a word: You should still go.

The specs: #0490  
Address, hours & details via Isthmus; reviews at QSC, Yelp, Isthmus, 77Square; interview at Isthmus, listing at Eat Drink Madison; official web site, Plaka Taverna on Urbanspoon

Elizabeth ate the spinach pie and felafel combo with an Athens is Burning.
JM ate the beef-teki with a lemonade.
Nichole ate the ouzo feta burger with an It's Greek to Me.
Todd ate the gyro.
We split the saganaki and some baklava.
The bill was about $70, or $17.50/person, plus tip.
Elizabeth, Nichole, and Todd gave Plaka Taverna an A-; JM gave Plaka Taverna a B+ (see our grading rubric).

Latest Plaka news and reviews

So there was some consternation and concern about the metamorphosis from Cleveland's to Plaka, but most of Madison has figured out by now that it was a smart move. They've kept the breakfasts (Cleveland's long suit), redone the decor (the posters are still for local bands - local to Athens, that is), and added some smart, fun cocktails.

Flaming cheeseFlamed cheese

Elizabeth introduced JM and Nichole to flambeed saganaki cheese, purportedly invented at Chicago's Parthenon. This slice of feta was crusted in sesame seeds and toasted dramatically tableside. Despite an obstinate fire, our server persevered and the cheese softened all the way through, making for a great appetizer. Elizabeth admitted it was a touch of the theatrical that she enjoyed with her meal.

Spinach pie and felafel plate

The spinach pie was moist yet flaky; the falafel patties were crispy outside and creamy inside. The hummus was the best since Lulu's, with a texture that implied it had been made with really fresh parsley and good beans, and had nothing in common with that wallpaper paste hocked commercially.

Avgolemono soup and ouzo feta burger

Nichole didn't have any competition in this group for the privilege of ordering or eating the ouzo burger. Again with Kate's burger rating guide:

  • Bun: toasted, buttered white.
  • Meat: very good, marinated in ouzo.
  • Bun/meat ratio: fine.
  • Cheese: mild feta that held together.
  • Misc.: served with slightly floppy lettuce but good tomato and red onion. Though the anise flavor was subtle, it's true you'd have to enjoy that taste to enjoy the burger. An 8.3 of 10 overall.

The avgolemono soup was heavy on the avga and light on the lemono, and based on this small sample size of two cups, we'd have to say Plaka's sister taverna, Atlantis, executed the recipe better.

Gyros plateBeef teki

The men enjoyed the pub grub a lot; the gyros plate was a sight better than what you get at places that pander more to the bar crowd, and didn't cost any more. The beef teki were like DIY sliders. The meat was tender and grilled to near perfection, though how they were meant to interact with the pitas was quizzical. The drizzle of oil on top of the tzatziki was a thoughtful touch.


The walnut baklava was drenched in good honey but wasn't soggy; a distinct cinnamon flavor made it stand out among other baklava.

Neither of us count Greek cuisine as a favorite comfort food, so places have to do it well for us to truly enjoy our meal. Plaka did all that and a little bit more.


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I truly love Greek and have had it in Greece. I've been waiting a while for you guys to do this restaurant. I'm also a vegetarian, so I haven't gotten to try the finer parts of Greece here, and I've never been to atlantis. Nonetheless, this place is outstanding. Especially with Tilapia. Now, a Greek place that wants to be utterly Greek is going to do a lot more seafood than any Greek place in the Midwest ever does, so we're not setting the bar too high here. And a Greek place going utterly Greek isn't going to do the most farm-raised fish in the US. Nonetheless, Plaka's tilapia is first rate and tastes more akin to a wild cod loin than a thin over-farmed filet. The middle eastern dishes aren't meant to be middle eastern; they're greek, the perfect marriage of the West and the East; exactly the history of Istanbul itself. I really adore this place and I was ignorant enough not to know Atlantis is under same ownership (thanks, JM and N!) So I guess I'm going there next.

Love how you changed the name of the "comments" section to "bites". :D

oooh, you had me at "Sakanaki." Used to eat at the Parthenon a few times a year when I lived closer to Chicago, so I'm drooling at the mention. Will have to check this place out...

The saganaki at Apollon in Appleton was a date night dinner staple, although they make theirs with kefalotiri rather than feta. It's pretty easy to get it burning when you douse it in brandy first. Mmm...flamey.

Very good and fresh Greek food. Nice and casual atmosphere. nicely done.

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