Atmosphere: Greek and American home cooking.
Hours: Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday, 8 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Price Range: Appetizers from 75 cents for a cup of soup to $4.95 for a mixed Greek appetizer; most Greek and American entrees $4.50 to $5.95; children's entrees $2.95 to $3.50; desserts from 60 cents to $1.
Credit cards: Master Charge, Visa.
Reservations: Not necessary.
Special features: Booster seats; children's menu; carryout; limited parking on the street; front door wide enough for wheelchairs.
Part of the appeal of Marianna's restaurant in Alexandria is its pioneering spirit.
With the rubble of Metro construction on one side and the ragtag gray of upper King Street on the other, Marianna's is making the best of both -- serving coffee to Metro workers through the back window, and Greek and American home cooking to breakfast, lunch and dinner customers in front.
Greek-born owner-manager-part-time-chef Marianna Nicholas realizes that most customers consider her restaurant a "discovery." She therefore lavishes both newcomers and regulars with personal attention that says "please come back."
And they do. The food is good, the restaurant is cozy and clean, and the urban cracker-barrel atmosphere is comfortable for children.
Although the menu lists mostly American dishes -- plain, hearty fare like steaks, chops, ham, turkey and crabcakes -- and the children's menu is all American, Marianna's specialities are Greek.
Our dinner began with a platter of mixed Greek appetizers for $4.95 that would have been ample for a full dinner for one. Spinach turnovers, beef kebabs (Marianna says she only serves lamb when "it is fresh and young -- in the spring"), yogurt and feta cheese were surrounded by sliced cucumbers, Greek olives, tomato slices and lettuce in a sharp oil and vinegar dressing and sprinkled with dill.
Homemade soup, on the night we tried it, was a tomato-based vegetable thick with bits of pasta.
While we tackled appetizers and sipped wine, our waitress (there was only one) kept us supplied with freshly made hot, crusty, yeast rolls, which left the children butterfingered, quiet and too full to eat their main courses.
Our daughter, after eating only two bites of a gigantic chopped steak, was asked by the waitress, "We are going to eat a little more of our dinner, aren't we?"
Lo and behold -- she did. I wanted to take that lady home with me.
Our 5-year-old, however, caught on quickly and firmly held his ground, leaving most of a plate of thick perfectly cooked spaghetti abandoned in its butter sauce.
The adults did not have to be nudged to clean their plates. Grapes leaves stuffed with ground beef and rice were firm but tender under a creamy lemon sauce, while souvlaki in its bread pouch was as satisfying a beef and salad sandwich as one could hope for. Both dishes came with a small Greek salad and rice.
One of Marianna's Greek pastries or rice pudding probably would have been a better choice than the soggy apple pie we ate for dessert. The children had their customary safe bet, vanilla ice cream.
We hope Metro will mean a windfall for Marianna's. Meanwhile, our family will gladly do its bit to help this little restaurant survive until the rails have all been laid.