A Night at Club Stratos, the Greek Belly-Dancing Palace You Pass but Never Step Inside

I didn't expect a cultural explosion, or an immersion into the raucous waters of the Mediterranean, but that's what I got. When I pulled up to the tall white building on Northwest Highway, wrapped in wavy iron and bathed in blue neon, I mistakenly thought to myself, Here's another dim club with some bare mid-drifts and a few drink specials. I was wrong. So, so wrong.

Stratos Greek Taverna -- or Club Stratos -- is so much more than food and dance. It's a sensually overloading experience that will leave you laughing from your belly and praising Zeus for Greek culture.

Our party was welcomed into the club through a marble-arched facade and an acoustic duet of a James Taylor classic. Tiered platforms supported tables around the polished wooden dance floor so that the focus of the crowd was centered on the stage. Our table was situated on the edge of the dance floor, and the well rehearsed cover band serenaded us smoothly into our café styled chairs. Within minutes, wine began flowing and our table was a little non-Greek chorus of laughter.

There were eight of us. We ordered three "Mezethes" -- light Greek appetizers -- and there was plenty to share.

Nina was more than lovely. She stalked onto the dance floor and instantly the restaurant was hushed by her presence. She began dancing, and her abdomen gyrated as quickly and fluidly as a rippling pond. She bounced her belly to the beat and moved like a rhythmic yogi. Sometimes she would dance on the floor and other times she would dance between tables of men, women and grandparents. Her dance was beautiful and romantic, but safe for more conservative eyes.

Later, halfway through my kabob the DJ ka-boomed over the PA system, "It's time for everyone to do a family-style Greek dance. Join our staff on the dance floor for instructions."

Three of the wait staff linked arms over each other's necks, and began to kick left to right in a "1-2" step. The music got faster and the DJ again announced that the dance is cooperative, and we were encouraged to join the three staff on the floor. After drinking half a bottle of wine I was more than confident in my Mediterranean dance moves. I took another heaping bite of lamb kabob, grabbed my girlfriend and hit the floor.

The dance was easy: two steps to the right, then a kick to either side, repeat. The challenging part was that the dance got fast, and the chain of people grew until it was immeasurably long. The music intensified, the kicking became more feverish, and before I could begin panting we had already done a whole lap around the restaurant.

The music's beat increased, and I began to sweat. We wrapped ourselves in snail shell formation until everyone was close enough to smell the each other's meals on our breaths.

I left Stratos damp with sweat, and convinced that its uniqueness of Stratos cannot be undermined. The food is solid, and the entertainment is a blast. If you want an experience similar to this one, Thursday through Saturday nights are belly dancing nights. Belly dancing begins at 7:30, so arrive around 7 to have your place secured and food ordered.

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