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Athens on Fourth Avenue

500 N. Fourth Ave.

READERS' PICK: Tucson is fortunate. There is better, much better, Greek food here than in cities with much larger Greek populations. Phoenix and Denver come to mind as taking back seats. In Tucson, the class of the class is Athens on Fourth Avenue, what began in a small room with just a few tables in 1993 and now has grown with owner Andreas Delfakis' beautiful woodwork into an expanded dining room and bar. Andreas and co-owner Eleni Delfakis artfully serve staples such as braised lamb, spanakopita and moussaka. Here is a rare locale for sweetbreads.The avgolemono soup is the best is town. And the skordalia will entice even those who think they are averse to garlic. Andreas is a master with fish: cabrilla, salmon and halibut. Yet the real treat, and one reason even the Italians flock here, is the supreme calamari. His pasta with mussels is absolutely amazing. Athens also has the best selection of Greek wines. The patio, particularly now with cooler weather, is lovely. Never on Sunday and open for dinner only, a point which spurred some Greek suits downtown and beyond to consider legal action to force Andreas to open for lunch.

READERS' POLL RUNNER-UP: Olive Tree, 7000 E. Tanque Verde Road

LOOSE CHANGE: El Greco's Grecian Gardens, 4635 E. Fort Lowell Road. El Greco was once a wildly popular hole in the wall up Sixth Street from Athens on Fourth and on the edge of the University of Arizona. When the UA squatted seven years ago, the Ptolemeos Kotzambasis family moved to Fort Lowell Road. It's now El Greco's Grecian Gardens and Tucson should be kissing the feet of "Pete" Kotzambasis, his wife Lois, son Elias and daughter Chrys Lynn for converting a burned-out, trashed-up drug hangout into a beautiful and thriving restaurant. To show its appreciation as only the City of Tucson can, Fort Lowell Road was all but closed throughout the spring and summer to satisfy a purely developer-driven road project to the south. El Greco managed to survive and we're all the better for it. Spanakopita here is a delight. The bread is flat-out coveted. The hummus is the best in Tucson. And the best gyro in town is not actually a gyro, but a doner kebob, and it's at El Greco's. For dessert, the kataifi, ouzo cake and baklava are great. Per tradition, never on Sunday, but open the other six days for lunch and dinner.

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