For wee-hour sweets, Yianni's is a rare treat

September 25, 1997|By Kathryn Higham | Kathryn Higham,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Here's a find: a dessert cafe where 10 bucks buys you a terrific light meal, and the staff doesn't kick you out after 11 p.m.

Yianni's Cafe is one of those rare places that stays open until the early morning hours. Yianni Kafouros, former owner of the Crazy John's restaurant chain, opened the Greektown establishment last December. While Yianni's serves appetizers, salads and sandwiches, its raison d'etre is dessert, from European pastries to Greek specialties, like baklava.

You can skim the menu's extensive dessert listings, or stroll to the glass display cases that line one wall of the cafe. Our waitress, a native of the Greek island of Rhodes, patiently described desserts that caught our eye, and even pointed out her favorite -- a sponge cake and whipped cream affair with a touch of orange.

But my friend could not take his eyes off a piece of chocolate-wrapped decadence. Stiff chocolate mousse topped a chocolate cake, spread with orange marmalade and a dollop of custard. It didn't have creamy richness or deep chocolate flavor, but it was lightly textured, sweet and freshly made.

We liked the Greek desserts even better: baklava with layer after layer of buttery phyllo and loads of honeyed walnuts; and delicious kataifi -- like a shredded wheat biscuit oozing sweet syrup and nuts.

If you're looking for something a little less deadly, try a coffee frappe, made with Nescafe and cream, or an iced decaf cappuccino that puts Starbucks to shame. They're both enormous, served tall and frothy in jumbo fountain glasses.

For some people, the end justifies the means. In other words, it's worth eating a so-so meal just to end with a great dessert. That's not the case at Yianni's. The shrimp salad sandwich alone was worth a trip. It was filled with big, fresh shrimp in a creamy, cayenne-kicking dressing. A lemon-herb marinade gave a grilled chicken sandwich great flavor and tenderness.

Along with our sandwiches, we split a huge village salad for $4.50. That's a Greek salad without lettuce -- just chunks of tomatoes, cucumber and green peppers tossed with red onions, kalamata olives and lots of feta.

A burger on a French bread roll was lean and flavorful, served with golden, greaseless fries. But burgers we can get anywhere. We'd rather come back for another bowl of soothing avgolemono soup, delicately flavored with egg and lemon and dotted with pieces of poached chicken breast. Or the tiny, crisp Nisiota pizza with the sharp flavor of olives and feta under mild mozzarella.

Since it's open until 3 a.m., Yianni's is a great spot for late-night coffee and dessert. Take a table on the new balcony, in the warm brick dining room on the second floor, or next to Crazy Yianni, the enormous Brazilian catfish who patrols the fish tank downstairs.

Yianni's Cafe

Address: 4701 Eastern Ave.


Hours: Open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner

Credit cards: MasterCard, Visa, American Express

Prices: Appetizers, $2.50-$5; entrees, $2.95-$6.50.

Pub Date: 9/25/97

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