So now that it is sort of starting to get warmer (right? RIGHT?) all I can think about is eating and drinking outside. As a native Washingtonian, I know that the window of outdoor eating opportunity here in our nation’s capital is small, and I like to take advantage of it when I can. Since we’ve been friends for a while, Internet readers, I feel like it’s high time I let you in on my absolute favorite outdoor dining spot — Zorba’s. If you’ve never been here before, you have without a doubt walked by it a thousand times and never looked twice. Right by the Q St. exit of the Dupont Circle Metro stop, it doesn’t exactly scream “fancy dining experience.” And to be honest, you’re right. It may not be fancy, but they’ve got lots of patio seating, pitchers of beer and food that reminds me of sunny days nursing a hangover on the beaches of Greece. Or at least, that’s what I think they’d be like.
I first knew Zorba’s as a place to drink only. Whether it was the less than classy decor, the plastic trays or the counter service, I somehow got it in my head that it was one of those places where you overlooked the substandard food in the name of cheap pitchers and people watching galore. For years, all I ordered was hummus. Then one day I was just too hungry for chickpeas and I figured I would try a little souvlaki and just eat around the pork if it was gross. Needless to say, I ended up pleasantly surprised.
Since my first clandestine (read: necessary) meeting with the food at Zorba’s, I’ve been back many a-time. I order the pork souvlaki more times than I’d like to admit, but when I find something I love, I love it a little too much. I’m a little like Lenny from Of Mice and Men in that sense. But only in that sense, thank you very much. The tender pieces of pork are stuffed into a house made pita so fluffy and flavorful you’re just sure that old lady from the Oikos Greek yogurt commercials made it. I’m a sucker for the tzatziki though, and always order extra for dipping. The only thing that kills me with the souvlaki is the side order of fries that comes with it. They’re clearly frozen fries from a bag. Cash in on those saved calories and order another pitcher of beer.
That hummus I used to order should have led me in to the light a little earlier though, because it’s delicious. Truthfully, I can make a pretty stellar meal out of the hummus and the taramasalata and the fluffy pita, but I’d be doing an injustice to my stomach to pass up everything else on the menu. The gyro plate is great, with tons of meat piled on top of enough veggies to make you feel good about yourself. I’m also a sucker for the kefte kabob, flavorful meatballs chock full of onions and parsley and grilled to the juicy and tender point of perfection. I always order the spanikopita, and though it is on the greasy side and has the nutritional value of an onion ring, it seems like a crime to pass them up. A second on the lips, a lifetime on the hips? Well an hour on the treadmill is worth a few orders of spanikopita. So take that, Self Magazine.
A meal at Zorba’s begs the age-old question, do I think food tastes better when I’m eating it on a sunny patio? Or while drinking? Well, I am here to tell you that I’ve eaten Zorba’s grub while both sitting inside on a rainy day and whilst sober, and both times I came away happy. So go forth and try, and bring your friends and your sunglasses because you’ll want to stay and sit and eat and drink for a very, very long time.
Zorba’s Cafe is located at 1612 20th St. NW. The closest Metro station is Dupont Circle (Red Line). For more information, call (202) 387-8555.