Restaurant review: Yanni's Greek Taverna

Galaktompouriko? Wait 'til after dinner

Yanni's Greek Taverna

*** 1/2

3500 Connecticut Ave. NW Cleveland Park Metro (Red Line) (202) 362-8871 Appetizers range from $3.50 - $12.95 Entrees from $7.95 - $17.95 Desserts from $3.50 - $6.50.

If you're grabbing a bite with friends or impressing that special someone, Yanni's Greek Taverna in Cleveland Park offers authentic flavor at a reasonable price. Yanni's is across from the Cleveland Park Metro, on a corner facing busy Connecticut Avenue and a host of other ethnic eateries.

Settle into one of the booths in front of a mural of the Greek island of Mykonos and try a few appetizers.

There's the tzatziki, a cucumber-infused yogurt dip. There's also hummus, the signature Mediterranean dip of crushed chickpeas, and spanakopita, a crispy spinach pie made with feta cheese and filo dough. The tzatziki brought back the flavors of summer - cool cucumber and fresh basil. The hummus was not overwhelming, like many varieties found in grocery stores are.

Leo, one of Yanni's waiters, said the dips, spread on warm pita bread brushed with garlic olive oil, are the two most popular appetizers. A flavorful spanikopita arrived at the perfect temperature, and there was more than enough for two.

While waiting for the entrees and enjoying another round of hot pita, the music ranged from folk to what sounded like a Greek Enrique Iglesias. When the meal came, both the chicken souvlaki platter and the gyro (lamb) platter were served on enormous plates piled high with a choice of rice or french fries, Greek salad and more tzatzki and pita bread. While the lamb was average, the chicken was tender and juicy, flavored with rosemary and other spices. The salad was fresh and crisp, made in traditional style and topped off with pepperocini and a chunk of feta cheese. The dishes were good down to the last bite - if you can get that far - and the pita soaked up the delicious flavors of the meat, rice and salad.

Make sure to save room for what is perhaps the best dessert at Yanni's. While galaktompouriko sounds intimidating, it tastes just like something grandma might make, only better. Like the comfort of apple pie, this homemade treat is served hot in a honey and cinnamon glaze. This pastry could also be compared to a noodle pudding, as the filo dough is layered with warm, sweet cream.

The family-style food at Yanni's reflects the intimate, friendly atmosphere and service.

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