A Guide to D.C.’s Newest Greek Restaurants

a guide to d.c.’s newest greek restaurants

Crudite (cucumbers, baby radish, baby carrots and feta) and roasted red pepper dip at Meli.

Growing up in a Greek American household, food was at the center of every occasion and event. I spent summers with my yiayia (grandmother) and other relatives in Greece, where good eating was consistently a form of communication over a language I never fluently learned. Living in D.C. since college, I found when I miss my family I would search for Greek spots in the city but was quickly disappointed at the lack of options. I resorted to having family mail ingredients to me and cooking the dishes myself.

Then in 2023, a miracle happened: Four restaurants all championing Greek cuisine opened. I took it upon myself to accept the challenge and dine at each — Balos, Limani, Meli, and Philotimo 2.0 — to see which stay true to the faraway food and vibe (and which ones I think my yiayia would give her seal of approval).

Balos

Be transported to a popular Greek isle and possibly run into a famous DJ

a guide to d.c.’s newest greek restaurants

Using a predominantly neutral color palette, the dining room has a macrame blue wall hanging and arched accent doorways and shelves.

Vibe check: Entering Balos off the streets of Dupont is reminiscent of stepping into restaurants in popular tourist islands like Crete (Balos is named after a beach there) or Santorini, where a lot of the decor mixes modern minimalism with old-world architecture. Similar to the decor, the music oscillates from traditional Greek music to modern club music. It is no surprise that Zedd recently dined here for a pre-Echostage performance meal.

Highlights: The whole fish. I can’t stress this enough. One of the best parts of going to Greece is the access to affordable whole fish at almost every restaurant. While the cost is unfortunately pricier in the states, the flaky white Dorado with ladolemono (lemon and olive oil dressing) is worth it and tastes exactly what you would order in Greece at a taverna or upscale restaurant. Their pita was my favorite out of all four stops and paired perfectly with the hummus. Their desserts also were a win with spot-on galaktoboureko (custard pastry soaked in syrup), karidopita (walnut cake with orange syrup), and admirable baklava, although light on the walnut mixture ratio to phyllo.

Yiayia’s approval? While my yiayia will always say her baklava is superior, like me, she is a sucker for flaky fresh fish and would adore the decor.

Limani

For breathtaking Potomac views

a guide to d.c.’s newest greek restaurants

Lots of tables are seated along floor-to-ceiling windows, so there’s a good chance you’ll have a great waterfront view.

Vibe check: Similar to Balos, there is a modern upscale feel to the decor at this huge Wharf newcomer. The design, however, is more reminiscent of American fine dining with more nautical touches and white linens rather than the upscale Greek restaurants I have visited. A lot of the music they played included Greek love ballads, which was a fun choice.

a guide to d.c.’s newest greek restaurants

Limani’s baklava is a deconstructive version and incorporated pistachios which while good, leaned more Middle Eastern than traditionally Greek.

Highlights: The gigantes, a classic large white bean dish in a velvety tomato stew, were great although prepared differently than those my family makes or the ones I’ve eaten in Greece. Normally, they are seasoned with oregano, spearmint and or parsley. I tasted basil in this version but it was still delightful. Their horta, which is a popular Greek side for locals and is essentially boiled leafy greens doused with lemon olive oil and salt, was the most authentic I have ever had at a Greek restaurant in the U.S. While a humble dish, it is one of my favorites and I appreciate the authenticity.

Yiayia’s approval? I could almost hear my yiayia singing along to the songs and she would love the views.

Meli

For an intimate date night reminiscent of a Greek taverna

a guide to d.c.’s newest greek restaurants

Sticking to more of the taverna theme, Meli is the only restaurant to serve souvlaki on this list, which was a treat.

Vibe check: Unlike the other restaurants on this list, this dining spot is tucked away in an apartment complex in AdMo. The quiet neighborhood ambiance of this restaurant, while modern in its decor, reminded me of visiting tavernas in villages like Ikaria or Samos, my preferred islands where locals but not many tourists roam.

Highlights: Meli calls itself “Greek-ish,” so many of the dishes are takes on classic dishes, but there was an appreciation of the cuisine in everything we tried. Take the green cabbage salad with scallions, olive oil and lemon. Head chef Keri Wieczorek has a Polish background and created this dish due to her love of cabbage. The refreshing tangy salad is reminiscent of a popular Greek romaine salad, maroulosalata, which usually is made with green onions, dill, olive and red wine vinegar that my family often pairs with grilled meat, like lamb or souvlaki. Meli also had these addictive crispy pita chips to dip tzatziki and other spreads like htipiti that I highly recommend.

Yiayia’s approval? My yiayia has a tendency of swiping bread products into her purse from restaurants, and something tells me she would have wrapped some of the pita chips in a napkin to munch on later.

Philotimo // Kaimaki

For craveable cocktails, knowledgeable staff, and delectable dolmades

a guide to d.c.’s newest greek restaurants

Philotimo’s next-door sister bar Kaimaki carries a similar feel but has more playful touches in music choices; on a Thursday night visit it was almost exclusively club tracks.

Vibe check: Chef Nick Stefanelli’s downtown restaurant that resurfaced last year is both extravagant, sleek, and sultry with net-like chandeliers and plush chairs and candles galore.

Highlights: Beverage director Joseph Kocjan perfectly captures Greek ingredients and flavors in cocktail form. No other place even came close. I had the tequila-based EOS cocktail which featured mastika, a distinct and unique flavor that comes from the mastic tree in Chios, Greece and is frequently used in desserts and drinks. The ingredient is both easy to overpower or mask when mixing with other flavors, but Kocjan does a fantastic job of showcasing the flavor without going too heavy-handed. I also had the Yiayia’s Nightcap dessert cocktail, which tasted identical to baklava but in liquid form. Food-wise, the dolmades were excellent even though their preparation was more reminiscent of Lebanese dolmades, using less filling-to-grape leaf ratio, but delicious all the same.

Yiayia’s approval? While my yiayia is not a heavy drinker, she would have downed Yiayia’s Nightcap and then reached for mine.

For more fresh options for Greek food, consider fast-casual Greco in Georgetown and two new pop-ups devoted to the cuisine: Tarátsa at Top of the Gate and Mediterranean fish Fridays at Gerrard Street Kitchen.

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