Atmosphere: The delicious sights and smells of a bakery-delicatessen.
Price range: Large pizza-type pies, $1.10 and under.
Hours: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.
Special facilities: Free parking; patrons in wheelchairs, however will have difficulty navigating the six steps into the bakery.
Credit Cards: None.
For the hungry traveler, stepping down into the Mediterranean Bakery is near to being a Turkish delight. To the right is a bank of cheeses, sausages and packages of "filo" dough for those adventurous enough to try making their own baklava. Straight ahead is a case of pastries: date, walnut and pistachio cookies and large glass jars heaped with pine nuts and pistachios, coriander and mint candies. To the left, on gleaming wooden shelves, are containers of tahini, grape leaves, pomegranate syrup and, what else, boxes of Turkish Delight.
Heaped on the counter next to the cash register are mounds of pita bread - the real reason the bakery got started in the first place. Owner Sami Chway, a native of Lebanon, became disgruntled with the stale pitas available in Washington. So he abandoned his job at the Mayflower Hotel and put his mother, sister and brother to work turning the bread into their bread and butter.
The result is a fresh, delicious version of the bread with a pocket in the middle. Equally good is its cousin, a kind of Lebanese pizza.
But it was the pizza we'd come for, the day a friend and I, with my 3-year-old son in tow, visited for the type of good, quick lunch we'd had in the past.
Ordering can be an ordeal for the newcomer. There were no menus as for as we could see, and the young man who served us seemed unsure of what exactly a pizza was - we later learned it's really a meat pie, but some are flat like pizzas.
After explaining what we wanted to two other people in the shop, my friend and I felt fairly sure that our order for one meat pizza and one herb pizza, along with a spinch pie, had been understood. Alas, in the verbal shuffle, the herb pie got lost and had to be reordered.
There are two large tables at one side of the bakery, and while we waited for lunch, my friend and I took in the atmosphere, what one would expect a Lebanese cafe to be like. There's a feeling of neighborhood camaraderie; other patrons seemed to know the Chway family and each other.
We also took the time to get some sodas from a machine outside the bakery, since drinks are not sold at the shop
Back inside, we noticed a sign in Arabic characters, which proclaimed something is available on Saturdays and Sundays. Samia Chway later told us that it is kanafeh, a type of cheese cake made from three cheeses and served with syrup on top. It is the Lebanese answer to pancakes and it's eaten with sesame bread.
When lunch arrived, the pizzas were good and hot, but the spinach pie, 60 cents, was undistinguished.
The herb pizza, covered with thyme, sesame seeds and olive oil is interesting, although we felt the texture of the topping was a bit gritty. It is best eaten along with the meat pizza, which has a nice topping of minced beef, pine nuts and spices covering the pita bread dough. The lunch was more than ample for the three of us.
The pies also come with fresh tomatoes and onions or dry yoghurt, red pepper and onions.
For dessert, we passed up the baklava, plain or with pistachios, and the cookies - fat, rich pastries stuffed with dates or walnuts - and ordered the namoora, a grainy cake dripping with honey that is quite good (35 cents).
When we finished we realized that the two pizzas we had ordered for our husbands working through lunch needed to be heated, a service which was graciously provided by the woman at the counter.
On the way out, I also ordered four spicy sausages that were well received by my family at dinner. Another meat, however, which we were invited to sample, sort of a salty beef jerky dusted with crab seasoning, requires a bit of getting used to.
Our entire bill, including the extra pizzas and the sausage was $9.20, quite reasonable for an enjoyable - if not quick - lunch.