Taverna The Greek Islands
307 Pennsylvania Ave. SE. 547-8360.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Mondays through Saturdays; 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. Sundays.
Atmosphere: Come-as-you-are and best-be-hungry.
Price Range: From solid sandwiches below $3 to hefty platters of all kinds in the $3.95 to $7.95 range.
Credit Cards: American Express, Visa.
Reservations: Not necessary, but might help during weekend prime times.
Special Facilities: Street-level dining area, though narrow, is accessible by wheelchair. Booster chairs available. Street parking if you're patient, alert and lucky.
In looking over a string of family fuel-ins we've staged, our Greek streak so far has been uninterrupted winners -- which was why it was such a snap to muster the team recently for a revisit to one Hellenic hit of a year ago.
There's a the town that the old Capitol Hill hands still call the "A&K Restaurant." But younger residents know it officially as Taverna The Greek Islands. Call it what you will, it's still an informal, drop-in spot for a family on the lamb, chicken or other Greek-treats beat.
A face-lifting that had been under way during our last visit is complete; you don't have to go past a lunch counter to get to the candlelit tables in the back and downstairs. Now you can get around the steam table by going through a fancier front door that takes you through an attractive lounge and on back to the old dining area.
Unlike the last time, when we were led down some steps to a narrow room of tables, we were nestled this night around a bule tablecloth near the recessed stucco-arch walls of the street-level room.
For those who know Greek brands of beer, Fix is "in" here -- though we decided to buy American: two frosted mugs of domestic and a pair of colas for the kids.
At the next table, a woman in an orange-and-white Wheaties sweatshirt gave us a preview of food to come as she waved representative samples on a fork to underscore her dinner conversation.
My wife remembered a smooth start she'd had on the last visit and again ordered Dolmades, which are grape leaves wrapped around a rice filling, at $1.95. But what she remembered the waiter apparently forgot -- the leaves never showed up.
Our 12-year-old son and I checked out the egg and lemon soup, at 95 cents, which was a dandy -- thick with vegetables and with a light kick to it. A taste I offered to our 9-year-old daughter prompted a request for yet another cup.
On to the main platters -- and here it pays to bear left when you read the menu, for though many dishes on both sides of the menu look to be the same, the ones on the left are less expensive. We asked the waiter why, and it seemed to have something to do with the salad sizes.
Still, there was one appealing dish on the right side that my wife thought worth trying: Exochiko, at $6.25, described as lamb, mushrooms, spinach and Greek cheese, wrapped in thick pastry, served with rice, yogurt and salad.
That salad -- quite a fancy one -- showed up when the bread and butter arrived. But when word came that her order would take at least 15 minutes more to prepare, she decided to switch to a house specialty she'd tried on our last go -- Ntoner-Kebab, at $4.25, which is thin slices of ground lamb, or "giros," on pita bread. As before, this was excellent and, by the way, a meal most children would probably like.
Our children, however, were into other things -- the son working over a shishkebab featuring five hefty hunks of lamb with rice, at $6.95, and the daughter content with Kotopoulo Riganato, at $3.95, beautifully soft chicken cooked in butter, lemon, oregano and other compatible flavors, and served with oven potatoes.
I stood with the leg of lamb roasted Grecian style, at $5.50, which came with rice in th shape of an upside-down custard cup.
The magic word for the children's dessert, as you may guess in a Greek restaurant, was Baklava, at 95 cents -- two large slices of a not-so-sweet creation that seemed to have a slight touch of cinnamon and vaguely resembled apple pie.
All of the above, plus two coffees, came to $31.97 plus tip, which was roughly $3 more than the tab here last time. That's not bad, when you consider that nearly everything's been going up -- including the high esteem in which our foursome holds the good old TGI/A&K.