Open Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Sunday, noon to 9 p.m. AE, BA, D, MC. Reservations. Food: Simple Greed food and a complex salad bar Style: Hospitality in a shopping center version of a Greek taverna Price: Platters with salad bar average $6 to $8
WHERE CAN THE salad bar go after dinner at Zachary's? Certainly not back to its plain old lettuce and tomato origins. Zachary's salad bar - at least, in its fully accountred dinner dress - is appetizer as well as salad, easily a main course, and bound to encourage overindulgence. Actually, it includes four appetizer dips, one of them the tangy red caviar puree known as taramosalata, the others purees of eggplant, potato, and yogurt withe cucumber, all of them as heavily galicky as they could be without forcing you to keep an arm's length from the table. To dip or spread these pungent purees, wedges of flat pita grilled with oregano and oil, a Greek rendition of garlic bread. Those are the salad bar's highlights, although it does go on to leafy greens and carrots, and crescendos with tiny pointed black Greek olives and feta cheese, then an anticlimax of crumbled fake bacon.
As you can tell, you don't need to order an appetizer at Zachary's. So just don't read what you are missing - the octopus vinaigrette, fresh and heady with oregano; the faintly sweet and acid tomato-sauced in a light batter; the stuffed grape leaves in egg-lemon sauce and the thick, refreshingly tart egg-lemon soup.
Even if you manage to be sensible and bypass the appetizers, you encounter a recurrent theme of lemon and garlic, varied with lemon and oregano. The fish - always fresh and cooked with care - simply broiled with lemon; the broiled chicken adds oregano; the shish kebab and filet slices are further embellished with garlic. The cook knows when to pull a dish from the broiler, which is all-important, since almost all the Greek specialties are broiled. He also richly seasons the moussaka and tops it with a heavily cheesed bechamel, although at lunch one day the cheese tasted like dried-out packaged parmesan. At lunch, also, the feta turns into cottage cheese and the appetizers disappear from the salad bar. Bar there is a deliciously marinated souvlaki mounded with feta, onions, parsley, tomato and cucumber on grilled pita.
The food, as I have been saying, is good. And the wine list offers pleasant Greek wines at about $6.50 a bottle of $1 a glass. The canned music is Greek, and the decorations (which are precisely what they seem) lean heavily on red velvet adn gold, cuminating in a bejuwelled pineapple-shaped lamp in the entry. The prices suit almost anybody, since the broiled chicken with salad bar is $4.95 adn most dinners are under $8, if you don't spend the $2 for an a la carte appetizer or $1.15 for a Greek pastry (the baklava, crisp and sweetened with restraint, being the best). If abandon with the menu and wine list can edge your dinner near $20, you can also dine fully for less than $10.
None of the above, however, is the reason Zachary's has such a faithful following. The loyalty sets in when you call for reservations and they ask if you know how to get there, then patiently explain. It continues when the proprietor hands you a little card with your name and table number , when the waitress helps you to choose your dinner, divides the appetizer you intended to share. You are already planning your return by the time she asks how sweet you like your Greek coffee, then serves it in a pretty demitasse with a Greek motif.
Zachary's is a simple restaurant with but eight ethnic main dishes and seven "American and Continental Dishes." Though the arches marching across the ceiling are more flossy than glamorous, the food is authentic, and then flaws - a bland brandy sauce on the sliced filet, a soggy, dense custard-filled galaktobouriko - ar less remembered than the successes - that wonderful tomatoey squid or the lamb dishes of quality, even the fresh okra that accompanies the moussaka or grape leaves. But most of what one remembers at Zachary's is the warm welcome, which never falgs until it becomes a warm goodbye.