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BOS

Review

We don’t know about you, but our living room sucks. That’s just the way things are in a city where housing is so expensive that the only way you can even afford your apartment is by thumb-tacking a blanket to the kitchen ceiling and building an “eat-in bedroom.”

If you live in the South End, though, you have a big advantage. This neighborhood has tons of corner restaurants that might as well be replacement living rooms, with candles in the windows and tables that spill out onto shaded brick sidewalks. Kava Neo Taverna, on the corner of Shawmut and Union Park, is one of them - a comfortable little South End living room that also happens to be Boston’s best Greek restaurant.

It’s tough to get in here, but worth the wait. The staff is ridiculously warm, and, while you can find good service in lots of restaurants, at Kava Neo Taverna it seems to stem from the fact that people actually enjoy working here, rather than from a motivational poster in the kitchen that says “the secret ingredient is a smile.” They’ll joke with you when you order too much food, roll their eyes at you when the person at the next table tries way too hard to correctly pronounce kolokithakia, and welcome you into their home more than your own parents do into theirs (plus, they won’t passive-aggressively question your life choices).

You’ll find a lot of your favorites here: grilled octopus, moussaka, and plenty of lamb. Don’t feel bad about ordering stuff you’ve already tried elsewhere, because while Kava Neo Taverna may not do anything groundbreaking, they do prepare just about everything perfectly. The octopus has the right amount of char on it, the tzatziki is equal parts tangy and smooth, and the fried smelts don’t have the slightest hint of grease. One thing they apparently don’t have, though, is a liquor license that allows for a fully stocked bar - but your own living room will be waiting for you when you’re done with dinner.

Sometimes what you want out of a restaurant is simple: a relaxed spot that makes great food. Whether or not you actually live in the row house two doors down (if so, are you looking for a roommate?), you can find your own little South End living room at Kava Neo Taverna. And the next time you redo your own space, don’t be surprised if you tell your interior decorator that you want it to be just like Kava Neo Taverna: bright, airy, and with two different kinds of octopus.

Food Rundown

Imam

It’s probably not fair or accurate to call this tomato-and-eggplant-based dish tomato sauce. But we’re going to do it anyway, because then we can take it a step further and call it some of the best tomato sauce you’re ever going to have. Someone needs to make a pizza out of this stuff.

Loukaniko

Here we were, all excited to dip the rest of our food in the tomato-sauce-that’s-not-tomato-sauce, and then boom, we’re hit with sausage served with a mixture of tzatziki, dijon, and honey. The sauce fight is on.

Piperia Florinis

It’s feta in a pepper, and it’s every bit as refreshing as a dip in the waters off a white-sand beach on the Aegean. Or so we imagine.

Oktapodi

Olive oil, lemon, oregano, and wood smoke. It turns out it doesn’t take much to make a great meal out of a prehistoric sea monster.

Stifado

It falls apart when the spoon just whispers in its ear. Just like good short rib should.

Lavraki

They fillet the fish and then put it back together for you, which kind of seems like a waste of time since you’re going to immediately plunge your fork into it, but we don’t get paid to make these decisions. We do get paid to tell you that it’s good, though, and that you should try it.

Feta Psiti

The phylo dough it’s made with is so delicate that you can touch it, watch it crumble, and pretend you’re an old wizard who’s just discovered an ancient book of spells, only to see the pages turn to dust as soon as he opens it. We don’t know why you would do that, but you could.

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