To view a complete compilation of all the gyro and Mediterranean restaurants visited by the Supreme FoodCourt, click here.
Download a PDF copy of the Court’s opinion: In re Gyros and Mediterranean
SUMMER TERM, 2011
Supreme FoodCourt of AFJ
In re Mediterranean and Gyros
September 30, 2011
Chief Justice Franco-Malone delivered the opinion of the Court, which was joined by Justices Steinberg and Justice Yung. Justice Fligsten joined Part IV of the opinion. Justice Rosenbaum filed a dissenting opinion, which was joined by Justice Goldsmith.
This term the Supreme FoodCourt considered the merits of the several Mediterranean establishments near Dupont Circle, considering lunch enticements such as gyro sandwiches, and chicken kabob. After carefully studying the contenders, the FoodCourt hereby declares that Food Corner Kabob House reigns supreme. Greek Deli was a close second. DC Café came in third, receiving a solid endorsement from the Court. Tied for last place were the overpriced Zorba’s, and the strikingly dull Moby Dick’s House of Kabob.
Food Corner Kabob House stood far above the other cases of the Gyro/Mediterranean term. Every aspect of this dining experience was superior, from the complimentary bowl of Afghan chicken noodle soup to enjoy while waiting, to the wide variety of stewed vegetable side dishes, to the gargantuan portions.
The menu at Food Corner was loaded with delectable choices, typically ranging from $6-10, and guaranteed to constitute at least two hearty meals. Most lunch specials come with your choices of a vegetable side dish, with choices including stewed pumpkin, chickpeas, spinach, and several other options, all of which received high reviews from the Justices. A vegetarian could easily make a meal out of 2-3 of these sides over rice. Meals came with fresh baked, puffy naan (prepared in the traditional Afghan manner, according to Justice Carson) rather than the traditional pita bread. The thickness of the bread with its crusty bottom made it slightly difficult to form a traditional gyro sandwich, but when reconceptualized as a gyro pizza, or open-faced sandwich, it was by far the most delicious gyro the Court sampled. The spicy cilantro chutney was the perfect dipping sauce for naan or gyro meat.
In addition to the superior culinary offerings, Food Corner had the friendliest service. Staff members tolerated a barrage of questions with patience and good will, seemed happy to explore the pros and cons of various menu choices, and even directed some diners to secret lunch specials not available on the menu. Moreover, with its café tables, and Bollywood music videos in background, Food Corner would be a good place to enjoy a meal in as well as for take-out. From its food, to its value, to its pleasant ambiance, Food Corner received nearly perfect marks all around.
II. Greek Deli
Greek Deli was a close second to Food Corner. The gyro meat was far above average, but could not quite measure up to the delectability of Food Corner. In addition to the gyro, several other choices received high accolades. The pastitstio – a creamy chicken and pasta bake – tasted “like heaven.” The daily special of artichoke hearts with pork shoulder in a cream sauce was a mouth-watering indulgence. The lamb was tender and flavorful. The cucumber salad that accompanied lunch specials impressed the Court with its fresh cucumbers, tomato, fresh dill, and generous helping of feta cheese. The orzo that accompanied most platters was a bit greasy, but that only added to its deliciousness. Dessert was a major high point at Greek Deli – the baklava was by far the best of the term and tasted like liquid caramel butter with a nice crunch. Like Food Corner, one’s dollar was stretched far at Greek Deli, with a $7-11 lunch providing ample food for several meals.
In addition to its scrumptious food and superb value, Greek Deli’s charismatic servers and authentic charm left an impression on the Justices. The gregarious, boisterous proprietor of the café jovially shouted for patrons to declare their order before they even reached the counter, in a good-humored effort to keep the out-the-door line moving. Despite this dedication to speed, upon reaching the front of the line, he provided earnest counsel on the daily specials, describing the various choices as one would to a friend invited to dinner.
Greek Deli was not a popular option with vegetarian justices, who found its non-meat entrees lacking, and described the falafel as dry and crumbly. Still, omnivores will find many reasons to return to Greek Deli. Greek Deli’s fatal flaw was its location, as it is located past M Street on 19th Avenue – an exceedingly grueling trek for admittedly lethargic hungry justices. If willing to persevere the four block trek, the culinary rewards offered at Greek Deli are ample.
III. DC Café
With its indulgently greasy fare, DC Café was the FoodCourt’s third choice of the term. For a modest $8, diners can expect to receive well over their daily allotment of calories in the form of a gyro sandwich accompanied by a side of your choice of rice or perfectly crisped fries – all of which carry a generous sheen of vegetable oil. Rather than slicing gyro meat off of a roasting spit, the pre-sliced meat was refrigerated and then grilled to order. While justices were initially skeptical of this non-traditional method, the Court was in the end impressed by the consistent crispiness and char on each piece of meat this technique produced. The garlic yogurt sauce that came on the gyros was fabulous. The falafel was arguably the best sampled all term – not overly dry or crumbly – and came with deliciously spicy pepper chutney.
For a few extra dollars, there is a wide array of appetizers that provide the perfect way to round off a meal. The samosa was one of the best one Justice has ever tasted. (Note: avoid the hummus, which tasted like rubber bike tires). As an added bonus, DC Café is upon until 5am and offers late night junk food staples such as cheeseburgers in addition to its Mediterranean fare.
While Supreme Food Court Justices have long visited Zorba’s for Mediterranean or gyros, sadly, it appears that Zorba’s has been resting on its laurels, and simply could not measure up against its newer, hungrier competition. While the food was just as tasty as ever, the Justices were shocked at the exorbitant amount Zorba’s feels justifies in charging for its, frankly, meager entrees. The least expensive lunch option available is the $8.50 gyro, which came with no sides and left justices hungry. For a more filling combo meal, the price shot up to $14-15.
If money is no object, Zorba’s is still an adequate choice. The ambiance of the restaurant provides an ideal setting for a lunch time meeting, or a quiet solitary dining experience. The quality of the food was admittedly very good – with fresh made bread, and gyro meat that was allowed to roast for perfect amount of time, ensuring that each and every slice had a nice crust. The pork and the chicken souvlaki were tender and delicious. The baklava was of higher quality than normal, and tasted very buttery.
Moby Dick House of Kabob was entirely adequate, and were it not for having experienced Food Corner Kabob House and Greek Deli, the Justices might have been impressed by Moby Dick’s cuisine. As it were, Moby Dick was at the bottom of the leaderboard, sharing last place with Zorba’s. The chicken and lamb were the most popular entrees; the chicken was moist and flavorful, and the full of flavor lamb shank fell off the bone. The gyro meat, on the other hand, was simply average when compared to other establishments. Similarly, the baklava was in no way deficient, but was also nothing special. Several interesting desert options were available, including fried honey dough, rosewater sorbet, and a saffron ice cream which was popular with some justices and revolting to others. While Moby Dick’s food was overall reputable, its best attribute was its value. For $6-8, the lunch goer gets more than his or her money’s worth.
SUMMER TERM, 2011
Supreme FoodCourt of AFJ
In re Mediterranean and Gyros
September 30, 2011
Justice Rosenbaum, dissenting in the judgment, joined by Justice Goldsmith.
While the Food Corner Kabob House was an amazing culinary experience, the Court would be remiss if it did not recognize the simple charm and delectable cuisine of Greek Deli as the best Mediterranean restaurant in Dupont Circle. Immediately upon arrival, Greek Deli commands attention for the disproportionately long queue waiting in front of this small hole-in-the-wall. Yet, the tiny size is part of its appeal, as the restaurant feels like being welcomed into someone’s house for a traditional, homemade Greek feast. The men and women behind the counter also treat you as such. They welcome you like family, cracking jokes and giving recommendations to make sure you have the best possible experience.
But the wonderful service pales in comparison to the slice of heaven that is Greek Deli’s Pastitsio. For those unfamiliar with this delicious dish, and the Court pities those deprived individuals, some compare Pastitsio to the Italian classic lasagna. However, the Court should be wary of this comparison as it only makes lasagna seem lacking, paltry, and unsatisfying. Pastitsio typically starts with a base of bucatini noodles or another type of tubular pasta. A mouth-watering mélange of egg, cheese, and butter holds these noodles together. A layer of ground beef, cinnamon or nutmeg, and tomato smothers the bucatini base, and a thin blanket of bucatini noodles covers the meaty middle. The final addition that elevates this dish from the Greek Deli kitchen straight to the heavens is the Béchamel sauce. The perfect mixture of scalded milk, flour, butter, and cheese creates this creamy sauce, the perfect topping to a perfect dish.
Greek Deli’s Pastitsio has found the delicate balance between these strata: 55% noodles, 20% meat, and 25% Béchamel sauce. They also improve upon the classical model by thickening the Béchamel sauce to almost a custardy consistency. Yet the Béchamel custard still melts in your mouth, binding the meat and bucatini pasta together in a transcendent trio. As if the tantalizing taste of the Pastitsio were not enough, Greek Deli also serves the dish with Orzo, Greek green beans, a Greek salad, and garlic bread, making the ten-dollar price well worth the 2-3 delicious meals one Pastitsio offers. Though not traditionally served with Pastitsio, the Orzo’s soft and smooth texture perfectly contrasts with the more firm, chewy bucatinti noodles. The Greek green beans, cooked with mixed herbs and tomatoes, complement both the taste and color palette of the dish. The garlic bread, almost an ironic nod to the inferior Italian counterpart, is freshly baked and served warm, fluffy, and delicious. The Greek salad, the only potential downside to the dish, is composed of fresh vegetables but smothered in an odd dressing. Yet even this peculiar salad dressing could not detract from the perfection of Greek Deli’s Pastitsio.
Greek Deli’s overall appeal, friendly service, and heavenly, Hellenistic cuisine easily win it the title of best Mediterranean lunch in the Circle.
- Food Corner Kabob House (with a near perfect 4.7 out of 5!)
- Greek Deli
- DC Café
- Moby Dick (tied for last)
- Zorba’s (tied for last)
Overall: 4.4 (April: 5, Ariel: 4.5, Peter: 4, Michelle: 3.5, Dan M.: 4.5, Rayza: 4.5, Eva: 4.5, Joe: 4.5, Danielle: 5, Marissa: 4)
Taste: 4.7 (April: 4.5, Ariel: 4.5, Peter: 4.5, Michelle: 4, Dan M.: 5, Rayza: 5, Eva: 5, Joe: 4.5, Danielle: 5, Marissa: 4.5)
Proximity: 2 blocks, 5 minute walk.
Menu: Diverse menu with lots of choices. Multiple vegetable sides available. Hidden lunch specials available but not advertised on menu.
Price/Value: $6-10. Cheap lunch specials available (gyro sandwich combo with rice and sides for under $7), but vegetarian options were more expensive.
Service: Great. Service took a while but was “memorable.”
Freshness/Quality of Ingredients: Very good. The naan was toasted to order, the meat was incredibly delicious.
Pros: Free soup while waiting for food, fun Bollywood music videos in background, restaurant would be a good place to enjoy a meal in as well as for take-out, interesting yogurt drinks available, the server tolerated our inane questions and made helpful suggestions, lunch specials available.
Cons: A bit of a long wait for the food. The vegetarian options were more expensive than some of the meat dish lunch specials, the Bollywood music videos could grate on one’s nerves after a while.
Overall: 3.9 (Michelle: 2.5, Joe: 4, Devan: 4.5, Rayza: 4.5, Peter: 3, Dan M.: 4, Lauren: 3.5, Danielle: 4.5, Eva: 3, Brian: 4, Ariel: 5, Stefanie: 4.5)
Taste: 4.3 (Michelle: 3, Joe: 4.5, Devan: 4.5, Rayza: 4.5, Peter: 3.5, Dan M.: 4, Lauren: 3.5, Danielle: 4.5, Eva: 5, Brian: 4, Ariel: 5, Stefanie: 4.5)
Proximity: 10-15 minute walk
Menu: Pretty good selection, but not a lot of veggie options
Price/Value: $7-11. A lot of lunch specials for relatively cheap. Platters were a bit more expensive but a ton of food – more than one meal’s worth.
Service: Awesome service – both efficient and friendly. Speedy, but doesn’t feel like an assembly line.
Freshness/Quality of Ingredients: Overall pretty good. The green beans tasted canned, but the cucumber salad was very fresh. Meat and bread were pretty good.
Pros: The gyro held together well, service included lots of character and humor, pre-made deli items available for purchase in store area of restaurant.
Cons: Too few veggie options, no seating available except for outdoor, it is quite a hike on a hot day.
Overall: 3.8 (Dan F.: 4, Rayza: 3.5, Joe: 4, Eva: 3.5, Danielle: 4)
Taste: 4.1 (Dan F.: 4.5, Rayza: 4, Joe: 4, Eva: 4, Danielle: 4)
Proximity: 5 minute walk.
Menu: Adequate. Included gyros and other basics, plus late night junk food like cheeseburgers.
Price/Value: $8 for a lunch special that includes a very large gyro plus a side of fries or rice.
Service: Slow but friendly. Forgot one Justice’s side of yogurt.
Freshness/Quality of Ingredients: Adequate. Bread clearly not homemade, but still very good. Vegetables were fresh.
Pros: Open till 5am, good (greasy) food with nice portion sizes.
Cons: No air conditioning on the basement level so it’s sweltering hot while waiting for food.
Overall: 3.4 (Rayza: 3.5, Ariel: 4, Dan M.: 3, Joe: 4, Stefanie: 2.5, Sue: 3, Lauren: 3, Eva: 4, Danielle: 3, April: 4)
Taste: 4.0 (Rayza: 4.5, Ariel: 4.5, Dan M.: 3.5, Joe: 4, Stefanie: 4, Sue: 3.5, Lauren: 4, Eva: 3.5, Danielle: 4, April: 4.5)
Proximity: 5 minute walk.
Menu: Good variety of choices.
Price/Value: Poor. Cheapest option is $8.50 for a gyro, which came with no sides and left justices hungry. Combo meals ranged from $14-15.
Service: Moderate-poor. Helpful staff, but slow food preparation. Accidentally gave away order to wrong diner which delayed process even longer.
Freshness/Quality of Ingredients: Great. Bread was homemade and very soft and tender. Produce was fresh. Fries were on the stale side.
Pros: Close by and very tasty. Nice ambiance for eating in.
Cons: Very expensive compared to other choices in the area.
Overall: 3.0 (Ariel: 3.5, Lauren: 2, Dan F.: 3.5, Elizabeth: 4, Dan M.: 2, Stefanie: 3.5, Peter: 3, Eva: 3, Danielle: 2, Dan V.: 3)
Taste: 3.3 (Ariel: 3.5, Lauren: 2.5, Dan F.: 3.5, Elizabeth: 3, Dan M.: 2.5, Stefanie: 3.5, Peter: 3.5, Eva: 4, Danielle: 3, Dan V.: 3.5)
Proximity: 8 minute walk
Menu: Pretty good selection.
Price/Value: $6-8 for most lunch options. You get your money’s worth.
Freshness/Quality of Ingredients: Pretty good. Bread was made right in front of you, yet was a bit tough. Some meat better than others.
Pros: Four types of desserts available, including an ice cream, sorbet, fried honey dough, and baklava.
Cons: The saffron ice cream was controversial and the rose water sorbet was a bit odd. The rice for the daily special came with a top layer of burnt crisped rice which was hard to chew. The gyro platter required you to assemble the gyro yourself.