One of Portland’s best-kept culinary secrets is Emilitsa, the rustic Greek restaurant on Congress Street.

Brothers and co-owners Demos and John Regas seem to hide from the front and center hubbub of this city’s food scene, but true foodies have caught on over the last six years since they opened, establishing a unique following for authentic, inspiring Mediterranean fare.

Tucked between a few storefronts in Portland’s arts district, directly across the street from Space Gallery and Maine College of Art, Emilitsa may not come to mind as easily as Fore Street or Hugo’s, but its central address makes for an ideal location for weekenders, museum-goers and downtown hotels.

The decor is modern, but particularly warm with an orange and yellow color scheme, identical pillows that line the seats along the wall, and chic tables and chairs that match the bar stools.

For wine enthusiasts, Emilitsa is a great place to try something entirely different. The wine list is almost strictly Greek with some international varietals and blends thrown in.

While Greece is one of the oldest wine producing regions in the world, its reputation for good wine has only started to improve in recent years and John at Emilitsa or his knowledgeable staff will be able to recommend the right glass or bottle.

On a recent night, a server recommended a glass of Boutari for $10. Made from the native Greek grape variety, zinomavro, this is the first wine that Yiannis Boutari bottled.

Also Greek-inspired, the cocktail list is made up of six unique drinks ranging in price from $8 to $12.

Emilitsa’s signature cocktail is made with Bombay Sapphire, Cointreau, Cambas Mantinia (a classic Greek white wine), champagne vinegar and ouzo, an anise-flavored Greek aperitif.

There’s also a signature ouzo lemonade for $10, a house martini for $12, and three other cocktails made with Metaxa – a classic Greek brown spirit created with a blend of wine distillates, Muscat wines, rose petals and Mediterranean herbs. The Metaxa mojito is particularly good and is made with Metaxa, muddled mint, lime, lemon and syrup for $11.

The beer list is small, which is always surprising to see in a state with so many great craft breweries. The only local brew on the menu is a good one, Maine Beer Co.’s Peeper Ale, and the others include a lager from Salonica, Greece; Fraoch Heather Ale from Scotland; Saison Dupont from Belgian and Dogfish Head India Brown Ale from Delaware.

Emilitsa welcomes walk-ins but recommends reservations for a more enjoyable dining experience.

If you’d like to check out the bar during the week, there shouldn’t be too much of a problem. Call ahead to make sure.

The restaurant can seat 50 plus a table for eight and while the staff is extremely accommodating and easy-going, the seating is meant to be quite intimate and elegant.

This is the kind of place to enjoy a specialty cocktail or a nice glass of wine with one or two other people at the bar. Emilitsa will not disappoint.

Claire Jeffers is a Portland freelance writer.