If You Go

Yamas takes care with Greek favorites

By Justin Rude
Washington Post staff writer
Friday, November 19, 2010

yamas mediterra-nean grill

Contact: 4806 Rugby Ave., Bethesda. 301-312-8384. www.yamasgrill.com.

Prices: Mezze: $5.95-$13.95. Happy hour mezze: $5. Sandwiches: $5.95-$6.95. Salads: $2.95-$8.95.

Wheelchair access: Yes.

Kid friendly: Highchairs are available and there are plenty kid-friendly selections on the small-plates menu.

Walking into Yamas Mediterranean Grill, the first thing I notice is the blue and white color palette - a Greek restaurant standard nodding to the national colors of Greece. The second thing I notice in the 50-seat restaurant that opened in August is the long bar that faces the dining room. Bar diners sip on Greek beers and cocktails while noshing on burgers, gyros and small plates. It's not vestigial attachment - this is a serious bar, and during Yamas's cleverly titled daily Opa Oras, it hosts the best seats in the house. Of course, if you are seated at a table you won't be neglected. The bar isn't the restaurant's focus, it just reflects its philosophy - to be the kind of warm, casual neighborhood meeting place that keeps regulars coming back.

On the menu: Yamas has a pan-Mediterranean menu with a focus on Greek favorites. Everything you would expect to be on the menu is on the menu: souvlaki, falafel, roast chicken, burgers, gyros, spanakopita, grilled lamb, etc. But even the comfortable favorites hold surprises. The Yamas gyro has been generating buzz for abandoning the standard pre-pressed commercial meat cone in favor of marinated slices of beef and lamb prepared daily. The result is a fresher, fuller flavor and a lot more texture. The chicken souvlaki is zesty with lemon and herbs; the Yamas burger, dressed with Mediterranean spices and covered in feta, is nice enough, with a well-cooked patty that is neither too loose nor too dense, but neither one rises above the competition the way the Yamas gyro does. During happy hour (Sunday-Friday 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., Friday-Saturday 10 p.m. to midnight) small plates rule, with such choices as marinated octopus, grilled Greek sausage, and cheese and dip plates.

At your service: Yamas is a family-owned and -run business, and that comes through in the friendly, familiar service. I like the dining room, but as is probably evident from above, I like my Yamas gyro, feta fries and small plates with a beer at the bar. Carryout and delivery are available with online ordering through the restaurant's Web site.

Wet your whistle: In addition to Mythos and Aris beers, there is the signature martini made with Ketel One and garnished with feta cheese stuffed olives. (Speaking of that happy hour, there is karaoke every Friday with Redskins tickets going to the winner.)

Bottom line: In a warm taverna atmosphere, Yamas serves flavorful Mediterranean favorites without cutting corners.

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