Hours: 6:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., weekdays and Saturdays; 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., Sundays (when only breakfast, pizza, and subs are served).
Atmosphere: Neighborhood coffee shop.
Price range: 70 cents for grilled cheese sandwich to $3.50 for dinners.
Reservations: Not accepted.
Credit cards: Not accepted; cash only.
Special facilities: Parking a slight problem on weekdays, but not on Sundays; wheelchair access, though there's one step.
We breakfasted at Little Giant recently on the recommendation of two different friends, who described this popular neighborhood coffee shop with the kind of enthusiasm usually associated with hometown ball teams--particularly underdog ball teams that just might pull a miracle and make it to the playoffs.
Little Giant is the kind of coffee shop you just don't find much in Washington: short on looks, but long on good manners, good humor, and decent food at pre-inflation prices.
Breakfast possibilities include ham or bacon and eggs for $2.05, hot cakes and ham or bacon for $2.15, a plain omelet for $1.25, and french toast for $1.45. Coffee is 30 cents a cup, and not bad.
Most places that even approach Little Giant in price have a fast-food atmosphere: You get the sense you're supposed to get in and get out quickly, and that half the staff is in high school.
Most of Little Giant's staff has been there for years, and at least four people were finishing their coffee over the morning paper as we lolled over our breakfast, delighted to be served by a waiter who combined efficiency with a wry sense of humor and the kind of down-home urbanity that seems to be a particular specialty of coffee shops owned by Greeks (which this is).
"I love it because it's one of the few ethnic coffee shops in the District," one friend had told us. "It's cheap, it's peaceful, and it has been there forever."
"I like it because you can get a tall glass of fresh orange juice for only 75 cents," our other source had said. Freshly squeezed, it wasn't (we expected miracles?), but the glass was tall and was filled to the top.
The cheese omelet was made with American cheese and smacked more of Iowa than of Paris, but went down easily--and for a combination price of $2.60 included three perfectly cooked strips of bacon, an ungreasy mound of hash browns, and two pieces of white-bread toast, that delicious fluff we're much too nutrition-conscious to serve at home but enjoy as a minor sin when we breakfast on the Formica circuit.
One of our 10-year-olds downed her hot cakes and was disgruntled when we wouldn't share our toast with her; the other found the syrup too watery and made off with as much bacon as she could, hinting that a second order would not be amiss.
My husband, who faced a day at a house-painting party, went all out and ordered steak, eggs and grits, at the peak breakfast price of $3. The eggs and grits were fine, he said; the steak, though tasty, was designed for strong teeth. Our bill came to $12.85, plus a $2 tip.
To be perfectly honest, our 10-year-olds thought Little Giant looked tacky, and you should not go expecting anything cute or fancy in the way of food or decor (forget it, for example, if you love the International House of Pancakes).
If you miss the coffee shops on Manhattan's upper West Side, however, bring the weekend newspaper with you and catch the mellow breakfast scene in Mt. Pleasant.