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Attiki Bar & Grill 

Diana Canahuati, chef/owner of Attiki Bar & Grill (230 Decatur St., 587-3756; www.attikineworleans.com), always dreamed of having her own restaurant. Just two months after opening the French Quarter spot, however, her dream was threatened when Hurricane Katrina made landfall and levee failures filled much of the city with water.

  "The whole ball changed," Canahuati says. "The challenges changed. No tourism. We didn't know how long it would take to get the city back. We had to do whatever we could to get it done."

  She and her staff did just that, offering a vast selection of wine and spirits and signature Mediterranean dishes served in an exotic atmosphere. The combination has garnered the restaurant a loyal daytime following and late-night revelers aplenty.

  Appetizers include grape leaves, hummus, fried calamari and tomato bufala (mozzarella cheese made with buffalo milk). For lunch, Canahuati recommends Attiki's signature chicken, beef, shrimp or shish kebabs. Dinner specialties range from rack of lamb marinated in Attiki's signature garlic seasoning to paella, a traditional Spanish dish loaded with seafood, sausage and chicken served over rice pilaf. Baklava and tiramisu are among the authentic Mediterranean desserts. Patrons also can puff on hookah bowls of flavored tobacco.

  In addition to lunch, dinner and late-night menus, Attiki hosts belly dancing performances on Saturday nights, accompanied by a medley of international music.

  "Attiki is a place you come that's totally different," Canahuati says. "It's getting away from the everyday."

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