The triple S: smooth, sexy and smoldering. These are just a few words to describe the way Katerina's on Irving Park makes me feel every time I sashay through her front door. A quaint neighborhood hideaway that used to be a known as a coffeehouse (that was two years ago, though), I'm never let down as I pounce into one of my all time favorite places to eat an incredible Southern European influenced meal and hear some smokin', gypsy-jazz style music.
The eclectic menu never really changes, but with hits like these, it doesn't ever need to. Where do I begin? I can go on and on about the tiropitakia (offered as an appetizer or entree), my all-time favorite dish of golden phyllo dough stuffed with herbs, feta and ricotta cheeses, then baked to a flaky perfection and doused in an incredibly addictive cinnamon Amaretto topping (I tend to rave to the newbie's I see perusing the menu about this particular dish, to much acclaim, of course).
I have managed to blather to anyone that I've ever met looking for a great place to chill about the tigania, a slow roasted pork dish that literally melts in your mouth with every bite (make sure to dunk the dense crusty bread in the brown sauce). My favorite salad is the fresh-as-a-summer-day Mediterranean salad; an ideal way to start the meal, the plate of greens is chock full of tiny chunks of cucumbers and perky little tomatoes (I'm curious where Katerina get her produce, as most tomatoes are still soggy at this time of year), bathed in a perfectly mixed house dressing of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
But my ultimate way to spend a day at Katz (as we hundred-timers have dubbed it) is to start off with a sour cherry martini (be very careful though, I spent last New Year's insanely loaded up on those things; it only takes a few to do the vicious deed). Made with the sweet red juice of Greek sour cherries and shaken furiously into the consistency of shaved ice, the splash of lemon only adds to the delicious tartness of the drink. After a couple of those mamas, I'm just tipsy enough to dive into Katerina's plethora of homemade one-of-a-kind desserts.
There are three main options for the sweet tooth and they all mean business. The chocolate chip cheesecake with cocoa sprinkles is a cream cheesy delight full of chewy bits of chocolate chips, cut into a huge square of sheer and utter happiness (my favorite of her cheesecakes is still the blueberry, though). The warm chocolate zucchini cake with walnuts peppered throughout is the moistest version of "cake" that I have found in the city. When I say, "God, I'd love a piece of cake," this is the one I'm daydreaming about. Another favorite is the still-warm sweet pear custard. Thick, gooey and plate licking good, I usually skip the hassle of choosing my sweet and just order all three of the damn things (all for me, only me).
THE FINAL RAVE: Though the meals are all fantastic, get bold, skip the nutrition and just rock out with sweets only. It's really the only way to go, especially when the sour cherries are a pourin'.
KEEP IT GOING:
Read It: City Bookshop
Across the street from Katerina's is a tiny bookstore offering used and rare books, "selected with care." If you're lucky you'll find a Southern European cookbook on their food shelf for less than five bucks.
Drink It: Martini Ranch
Though nowhere as sophisticated at Katerina's version, the ranch does serve up some powerful cocktails. Careful that pool table, though. After a couple of these puppies, it starts to resemble a bed. Night, night.
Eat It: Gibson's Bar & Steakhouse
There's nothing that reeks more of cash money than a big fat steak and a perfectly shaken martini at this celebrity haunt. Well, except for some real money. Who has that, though?
Get Crazy With It: Sausalito Restaurant and Martini Bar
What could be more fun than getting your Mom good and sauced on Mother's Day? The May 8 special meal deal is under $20 bucks and who knows, with enough martinis in her you might just find out that you're adopted or even better, that your parents were never really married in the first place (oh, it's been known to happen).
Fatcake Misty Tosh explores back-alley eateries, holes-in-the-wall and seedy ethnic joints as she treks the city in search of the next raving dish. Join her in the quest.