It’s all in the egg-and-lemon soup. That’s what separates a true Greek restaurant from the pretenders. Any decent cook can put together a respectably flaky spanikopita, a rich moussaka, roll up some beef and rice in a grape leaf and call it dolmades. But it takes a certain cultural sensitivity to master faultless avgolemono. The kind served at Joesph’s Cafe is smooth and tart, not so packed with orzo that it can’t be sipped, and never, ever thick with starch. "We’ve got a couple of women from Greece in our kitchen, rolling grape leaves and making soup," says Robert Abrahamian, co-owner of the café with his brother, Joseph. New faces in the kitchen notwithstanding, the soup was without doubt as perfect 23 years ago, when their father, Greek-Armenian Leo, and his wife, Ovsanna, opened a small café with its blue-and-white awning on the corner of Ivar and Yucca in Hollywood, and did all the cooking. Now there’s a white stucco structure with an appropriately Athenian blue awning, a clientele drawn heavily from the film industry and a breakfast menu that remains optional ’til 4 p.m. (as it always has). Joseph’s has withstood the decline of a neighborhood, a battle with the owner of a troublesome local bar, and a few years when Yucca Avenue was a street to cruise for crack, not food. And now that the neighborhood, according to Abrahamian, is "as clean as it’s ever been," the family has plans to take over a bit more of the block, add more parking and a patio, expand their onsite catering business and bring in live entertainment. For the time being, however, Joseph’s remains the kind of place where a screenwriter waiting for an option check to clear can stop by in the afternoon for a bowl of soup (3 bucks) and a cup of good strong coffee, and while away a few hours at the counter without being branded a loiterer. When the movie becomes a hit, of course, the Abrahamians expect said screenwriter back with producers in tow to take lunch meetings over kebabs of grilled fish in the sunny dining room — or, now that Joseph’s has a liquor license, a shot of ouzo and a lamb shank. 1775 N. Ivar Ave., Hollywood; (323) 462-8697.
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