Hours: Sunday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.; Friday and Saturday 1 p.m. to 3 a.m.
Price Range: Sandwiches, $1.75 to $4.75. Dinners, $3.25 to $7.95.
Atmosphere: Simple and comfortable.
Reservations: Reservations are taken.
Credit Cards: American Express, Diners Club, Visa, Master Charge.
Special Facilities: No high chairs or children's menu; no facilities for the handicapped.
One of the first restaurants our family tried when we moved to the Washington area 11 years ago was the Astor. It met the needs of our limited budget and it offered a bit of the exotic, both in the Greek food served and in the floor show upstairs, where belly dancers perfomred to bouzouki music. We had not returned to the Astor for several years, but with inflation taking such a big bite out of our "out to dinner" dollar, we decided to try it again.
We were seated in the first floor dining room. Belly dancers still perform in the rear dining room on the second floor, but prices are higher there. Our room was comfortable and had leatherette booths as well as small tables and chairs. A mirrored wall gave the illusion of a larger room and a ceramiclike tile floor gave one the feeling of Mediterranean decor.
The menu at the Astor is quite large and offers both Greek and American food. American dishes include a hamburger served with french fries and cole slaw for $2.65, Maryland crab cake, also served with french fries and cole slaw, for $5.95 and Italian spaghetti served with meatballs and one vegetable for $3.55. There are many otherselections, however.
Our family stuck to the Greek specialities on the menu. Our two youngest children chose to share the lamb souvlaki sandwich, $2.75, and spanakopeta, $4.95. The souvlaki sandwich contained small pieces of tender grilled lamb, chunks of feta cheese and lettuce and tomato. All of this stuffed into pita bread and the result was very tasty. The souvlaki was served with french fries that were freshly made and cut into thick slices, rather than the shoe-string variety.
The spanakopeta was combination of spinach and cheese in flasky filo dough. Perhaps because the Astor's spanakopeta had been cooked as a casserole instead of the individual triangles we were used to, the spinach was overcooked to our taste.
My husband ordered the Oriental lamb shishkebab, $6.95. The lamb cubes had been marinated in a well-balanced blend of oil, lemon juice, onion and oregano, and were not only tender but delicious. The shishkebab was served with rice.
We also tried the baked moussaka, $4.25. This combination of ground beef, eggplant, cheese and custard, layered together and baked, forms an exotic dish that would appeal even to those who are timied about trying unusual combinations of food.
The pastitsio, $4.25, is another interesting casserole dish. In it macaroni is combined with beef and cheese sauce. The Astor's pastitsio is a hearty and flavorful dish.
A combination of all the chef's specialities, $5.35, ordered by one of our party, contained spanakopita, moussaka, stuffed vine leaves, chicken livers riganatta and tash kebab. The tash kebab was tender chunks of lamb braised in a tomato-based sauce and served over rice. There was just a hint of cinnamon in the sauce, enhancing the sweet lamb flavor.
The vine leaves (grape leaves stuffed with chopped meat) were covered with avgolemono, a sauce made of egg and lemon juice. It was the perfect livers were dry, overcooked and a disappointment compared with the other items on the plate.
Each of the entrees, with the exception of the combination plate, came with a vegetable choice. We all tried the lettuce salad, which was just that -- a small plate of torn iceberg lettuce, tosed with a mildly seasoned oil and vinegar dressing and served with a large slice of bread. We had ordered our entrees a la carte but they could have been ordered as complete dinners. Soup, coffee or tea, and rice pudding or jello are the additions in the complete dinner, and the cost is approximately 70 cents to $1 more than the a la carte price, depending upon the entree.
Our waitress was efficient and helpful. She patiently described the dishes to us and knew her menu well. The portions at the Astor are still large, and after several of us had eaten as much as we could and still had food remaining on our plates, our waitress came rushing over to ask if anything was wrong with the food.
Even though some of us were unable to eat all of our entree, everyone wanted a taste of dessert. We wanted to try the baklava and the galaktoboureko, both $.95, and our waitress suggested that we order only two portions of each for the six of us. The baklava was a wonderful combination of layered filo pastry, nuts and lightly sweetened syrup. The menu says the baklava is homemade; it is obviously prepared with care. The galaktoboureko is a rich custard poured over a filo base, which is also enhanced by the syrup. Our daughter's friend, who is of Greek origin, said it was as good as the galaktoboureko her mother makes.
The Astor offers a broad choice of reasonable food at reasonable prices. Our dinner for six, including beer, cokes and coffee, came to $39.05, not including tax and tip -- but with such plentiful portions we could have eliminated one dish and still eaten very well.