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Holy flaming cheese! 

Mykonos owner Steffie Rizos and I went to high school together in Binghamton, where one of the most popular restaurants is the Argo, a Greek family joint specializing in seafood. Though Rochester has its share of "Greek" diners, as well as the wonderful Olive Tree, we didn't have a restaurant like the Argo. Mykonos's claim to being "the one and only authentic Greek restaurant" in the area might go too far, but it does fill that void.

            Steffie's husband, Yiannis Rizos, and her brother, Angelo Konidis --- who goes by the uni-moniker "Vangelis" --- are the cooks. Both had worked as cooks for years, but they hired a Greek chef from Toronto to train them for six months when Mykonos opened.

            At lunch, you can easily fill up for under $10. The Mykonos burger is unusual, with a spiced ground meat blend that has a softer texture than you'd expect. You get two patties, a big roll, and fries for $6.95. The steak sandwich was excellent, a marinated, New York strip topped with sautéed onions and mushrooms ($7.50).

            No Greek menu is complete without the phyllo pies, spanakopita (spinach) and tyropita (cheese). $5.25 scores either as an appetizer; spanakopita and a Greek salad is $6.25; and the Athens combo, with both pies, salad, and soup, is a steal at $6.95. Souvlaki, grilled, marinated meat, is another staple. At lunch, chicken or pork souvlaki is $6.95 with a salad and the popular lemon potatoes. The dinner menu also offers beef and lamb.

            At dinner, not only are there many individual items, but Mykonos gives you a variety of ways of combining them. The signature appetizer is saganaki, pan-fried kafalotiri cheese, flambéed with vodka, and served with pita ($7.50). The four-foot plume of fire is way cool, and the dish is the best I've had.

            Try some dips when you go. The hummus is thick, with strong garlic flavor. Tzatziki, yogurt with garlic and cucumber, is fresh and stiff. I'll take Mykonos's eggplant puree, melitzanosalata, over baba ghanoush, but it isn't quite the rapturous experience of the same dish at Olive's. The taramosalata, whipped caviar and olive oil, is a treat, if not the fluffy perfection of the Olive Tree's. With a large party, the Mykonos dip combo, which includes all of those plus kafteri (feta and hot pepper), and dolmades (stuffed grape leaves), is a must ($12.25).

            Mykonos garides, shrimp sautéed in wine with tomato, mushrooms, and feta, was orgasmic ($8.95). The shrimp were sweet and tender, the sauce was bright, and the mushrooms were perfect. Another treat is hot dolmades, made on site with ground beef and rice, and served in a delicious lemon sauce ($7.25).

            Main courses range from gyros (lamb/beef blend) to loukaniko (Greek sausage), lamb chops, pastas, and the layered casseroles pastitiso and moussaka. We went with the psarkia ("seafood") platter, far more food than three of us could handle ($36.95). There was grilled salmon with capers; broiled shrimp and scallops; charbroiled octopus tentacles; and both fried and charbroiled kalamari (squid). The fried kalamari was a bit heavy, but the charbroiled squid was sublime, sweet and crisp-tender with terrific grilled flavor. The platter came with rice, carrots and broccoli, and Greek salad, the expected iceberg and romaine. I prefer different greens, but apparently this is what people want and expect.

            For dessert, if you have any room, you can have baklava from a local baker, or a very good rice pudding made at Mykonos. And most important, you can get Greek coffee, fabulous sludge that is infinitely preferable to regular coffee or espresso.

            Mykonos is the kind of restaurant you'll come back to. It would take 10 trips to sample everything, and yet that variety doesn't lead to sloppy quality. The room is interesting and comfortable, incorporating bright colors and pseudo-frescos under soft, ample lighting. The service is friendly and attentive without being fawning. Lots of Greek people eat at Mykonos, and plenty of other people as well, and it's easy to see why. Yes, it reminds me of the Argo, but better in every way. Steffie, Yiannis, and Vangelis have a restaurant that fills a void with style.

Mykonos Greek Cuisine, 274 North Goodman Street, 271-5510. Hours: Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Sunday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Food tip

Changes are in the works at Richardson's Canal House in Bushnell's Basin. Johan Mueller, owner of Rooney's, has just purchased the entire property including the Oliver Loud Inn. Johan will keep Rooney's, but has moved Tom Polizzi, one of his Rooney's co-chefs, to Richardson's. It's an exciting development for an historic property, the oldest original Erie Canal inn (www.canalhouse.org).

--- Michael Warren Thomas

Tune in Michael on Saturdays for gardening, restaurants, and travel (9 a.m. to noon); and on Sundays for antiques and wine (10 a.m. to noon) on WYSL 1040 AM. Info: Michael@SavorLife.com.

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