2024-07-19 5:30 AM

Restaurant Spotlight: Zorba’s Cafe

 You have finally picked up the last crushed walnut from your plate and savored the remaining honey left on the final layer of fillo from your baklava. Now you proceed with both eyes closed to smell the fresh night air and hear the bustling sounds of the city and the light playing of the bouzouki. Then on opening, your eyes might play tricks on you and instead of seeing the Capitol, a lit Parthenon might come into view under a star-filled night sky. Unfortunately one cannot literally escape to Plaka, the busy living quarters below the acropolis in Athens, Greece, but at least you can experience authentic cuisine, traditional music, white washed walls and always a lively crowd eating and chatting outside. Zorba’s, a truly authentic Greek café has taken up residence in Dupont Circle.

The truth is, Zorba’s Café is an ideal place to go have lunch or dinner on a warm day. It is definitely just as charming indoors as outside, amongst the freshly potted hydrangeas, and can be a great refuge for those trying to escape Mother Nature’s cold wave. Oil paintings, bronze coffee pots and woven tapestries decorate the inside of this humble café and lush green leaves hang overhead in clay pots. It’s charming, wherever you plan to take your tray to sit and eat.

Zorba’s food is known throughout the metro area as being one of the best places to get your money’s worth when it comes to delicious food. The most expensive section of the menu are the ‘plates’ that offer Greek delicacies for the carnivore in all of us, like Chicken Reganáto for $11.25, a roasted half chicken, marinated, seasoned with oregano then baked and served over rice with a Greek salad. Keftéthes, or five Mediterranean-style meatballs made with onions, fresh parsley and herbs, are char-broiled, served over rice, and are great for an appetizer as well. A personal favorite is the Yero platter. Often mistakenly called a “gy-ro,” yero meat is marinated beef and lamb cooked on a vertical rotisserie, placed on Greek pita bread, topped with tzatziki (a cucumber garlic and yogurt dip) and served with a Greek salad and French fries.

For the salad aficionado, Zorba’s offers the traditional Greek Salad with most meals as well as six specialty entrée salads, all for $8.95. The Aegean Salad is topped with souvlaki skewers (chicken or pork), while the Tabouli has tomatoes, spring onions, parsley, cucumbers, green peppers, and radish all tossed with bulgur (cracked wheat), olive oil and lemon juice and served with a pita slice. Also appetizing is the Chick Pea Salad, made with chick peas, spring onions, fresh parsley and sprinkled with olive oil and lemon juice.

If you have gone to Zorba’s and have not tried Zorba’s Kotósoupa Avgolémono, a hearty chicken soup made with fresh vegetables, rice and an egg-lemon juice blend for $3.60, you are really missing the main attraction on the menu. This soup is as Greek as it gets, and Zorba’s makes sure to keep it as authentic as possible.

Most restaurants try to get it right but end up failing when trying to reproduce genuine Greek food in America. Oftentimes dishes end up being overcooked, over-baked and lacking authenticity. Here, the spanakopita (freshly baked, triangular fillo-dough turn-over with spinach, feta cheese, eggs, sautéed onions and herbs) tastes like it would come out of Yaya’s (“grandmother” in Greek) kitchen and the Dolmádes’ (rolled grape leaves stuffed with rice and herbs, cooked with olive oil and lemon juice) were picked from the vine growing along the balcony.

1612 20th St.,N.W. at Connecticut Ave.

Washington, D.C., 20009


Hours of Operation:

Monday – Saturday: 11:00 a.m. – 11:30 p.m.
Sunday: Noon – 10:30 p.m.
Grill closes 20 minutes before café.





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In Memoriam: Cathy Quinn

Catherine Garhart Quinn passed away peacefully on July 13, 2024. She was born in Sharon, PA on June 24, 1945, to Bernard and Anne Garhart.