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.

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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.