Cheap Eats

A neighborhood taverna

(Wendy Maeda/Globe Staff)
By Bella English
Globe Staff / July 29, 2009

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Pull into the parking lot at the Skara Grill and you’ll notice that the asphalt is bordered by greenery: 70 tomato and cucumber plants that will soon be heavy with fresh salad essentials. It’s a good omen of what’s inside this new Greek restaurant.

George Kariotis moved to Boston with his family from Kalamata in 1969 and for years owned the Dionysius restaurant in Cambridge. The Kariotises live near this new restaurant, which he envisions as a neighborhood taverna serving authentic meals at affordable prices. Weekends, there’s a two-piece band playing Greek and American music.

Family recipes have been handed down for generations, Kariotis says. Son Bob is the manager, and wife Maria did all the paintings of Greece that adorn the walls. Skara seats 80, with 20 more seats on a cobblestoned patio. It’s an attractive place with sand walls, warm tiles, and a stamped tin roof.

Sip a Mythos beer while perusing the menu. It’s all there, from spanikopita to moussaka and baked lamb. The rotisserie for gyros turns lazily and emits a slight garlicky aroma. We start with the Greek spread plate ($12.95), four traditional dips accompanied by warm pita. My favorite has always been tzatziki, a thick yogurt studded with chopped cucumbers and flavored with garlic and olive oil. The other standout is the tirokafterie, or chunky, salty feta given a lift with hot pepper sauce. The dish is rounded out with a scoop of melitzanosalata (roasted eggplant and garlic) and taramosalata (fish roe with whipped potato), which are perfectly acceptable if not terribly interesting.

The table favorite is calamari ($8.95), moist and sweet and lightly breaded. We also like the keftedes ($6.95), four small patties of ground beef spiced with oregano, cumin, and parsley, with a marinara sauce.

For entrees, try the youvetsi ($14.95), a casserole with either lamb or chicken, simmered in a copper pot with orzo and tomato sauce. The succulent lamb is sprinkled all over with velvety mild kasseri cheese.

I’ve always loved pastitsio and moussaka (both $12.95), and here they don’t disappoint. Pastitsio is the Greek version of lasagna, ground beef in a tomato sauce layered with macaroni, under a blanket of bechamel. The bechamel on both this dish and the moussaka could have been a bit thicker, while the moussaka’s potatoes, layered with eggplant and zucchini, should be thinner; they overpowered the eggplant.

Beef kebabs ($19.95) are grilled medium rare, as ordered, and just salty enough, with slightly charred cubes of red and green bell peppers. As for the gyro ($6.95, below), the meat on the spit - a combination of pork and beef - is made fresh every day. It’s crispy and flavorful, wrapped in pita with veggies and that wonderful tzatziki sauce.

Desserts are made on the premises. Galaktobouriko ($4.95), a creamy custard stuffed into crisp phyllo, is eggy, with just a hint of lemon - no doubt like Kariotis’s yia yia made it back in the old country.

SKARA GRILL 1985 Centre St., West Roxbury, 617-327-1114, All major credit cards. Wheelchair accessible.

Prices Appetizers $3.95-$16.95; entrees $12.95-$22.95 (most under $18); sandwiches and gyros $6.95; desserts $3.95-$5.95.

Hours Mon-Sun 11 a.m.-10 p.m.

Liquor Beer and wine.

May we suggest Greek spread plate, calamari, keftedes, youvetsi, pastitsio, kebabs, gyros, galaktobouriko.

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