Cheap Eats 2007: Zaytinya

At this Gallery Place mezzeteria, the grape leaves are wrapped around peppered Pipe Dreams goat cheese, the desserts come with yogurt mousse and honey-scented gelées, and microgreens are strewn across almost every plate. These are Greek, Turkish, and Lebanese dishes as imagined by José Andrés, the chef whose small-plates empire includes Jaleo.

Minding the Cheap Eats budget is difficult but not impossible. Two mezze per person doesn’t make a feast, but the flavors are often big and bold. To go with the just-baked pita that kicks things off, look to bowls of fluffy hummus and rich tzatziki. The creamy tomato-and-feta-laced broth that covers mussels named for cookbook author Paula Wolfert doubles as a terrific dip. Airy carrot fritters, shrimp sizzling with butter and dill, and robust hunkar begendi—braised lamb over rich, satiny eggplant purée—are also sure things.

The stark white-on-white dining room with orchid-filled glass canisters and cathedral candles is often crammed with patrons from the communal table to the bar. The restaurant now takes a limited number of dinner reservations; otherwise, expect to stand for an hour. Be patient. Cooking this rich and varied and affordable is worth waiting for.

Open Monday through Saturday for lunch and dinner.

Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Logan Circle.