The walls are made of bright white stucco with inset arches and ornate knives, plates and even a beautiful, but empty, bottle of Metaxa, a Greek blend of brandy and wine, decorate the interior. Greek music fills in the gaps of the surrounding lively conversation, distinctive with the sound of the bouzouki, a guitar like traditional Greek stringed instrument. Sea blue dishes swim on white table clothes, a transportation to a Mediterranean villa. The ruby red of the Greek wines complete the scene, try the Syrah Domaine Hatzimichalis and savor the taste of sour cherries, raspberries and thyme.
A basket of warm bread, soft with flecks of black olives arrives at the table, along with a bottle of olive oil containing a mixture of spices, floating in the clear green. Shake it well and then pour it onto your plate and enjoy dipping the soft bread. It is almost impossible to choose only a few appetizers, but you can’t go wrong. The Tzatziki ($5.75), a refreshing blend of homemade yogurt, grated cucumbers, garlic and olive oil is cold and fresh with the bite of cucumber. The Melitzanosalata ($5.50), smoked eggplant blended with garlic, parsley, olive oil and Greek herbs is perfectly smoky, smooth and creamy. Both these dishes demand an order of pita to accompany them. Feta Saganaki ($6.75), a hot appetizer of Greek feta cheese in olive oil, topped with tomato and oregano, arrives warm, barely seared, revealing a soft middle.
As the entrees appear, the smell alone awakens the senses. Garides Nafplion ($17.75), shrimp sautéed with olive oil, garlic, feta cheese and fresh tomato, is full of flavor. The cheese melts on the hot plate, forming a creamy tomato sauce that asks to be eaten in scoops with pita once all the shrimp are gone. Pastitsio ($16.75), is as good as in Greece, traditional layers of ground sirloin and macaroni topped with béchamel sauce, just a hint of nutmeg makes the dish complete. Arni Stamnas ($16.75), small chunks of lamb baked with eggplant, tomato sauce, vegetables and topped with kasseri cheese, in which the meat is tender and rich. Even the Kotopoulo Shish-Kebab ($16.75), skewered marinated chicken breast, grilled with green peppers, onions and tomatoes, served with rice, boasts juicy chicken and sweet onions.
Rice pudding and baklava are just a few of the special desserts, not to miss. The baklava, with layers of nuts and honey, is folded in perfectly flaky pastry. The rice pudding is fresh and not too sweet. In the spring and summer the outside patio is a haven. Overhead a grape arbor shields dinners from the passing traffic and the fractures the heat of the sun. Whatever the season, a meal at The Greek Taverna is authentic and a celebration. I recall a time in Greece, following a meal, happily drinking ouzo, an anise flavored liquor, while plates crashed down on the walls, floor and even heads. I keep that feeling of warmth, joy and indulgence inside of me while savoring the last bite of baklava.
The Greek Taverna
6828 Old Dominion Dr
McLean, VA 22101
Lunch: Mon. – Fri.: 11:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.
Dinner: Sun. – Thurs.: 5 p.m. – 10 p.m. and Fri. – Sat.: 5 p.m. -10:30 p.m.