1736 Wisconsin Ave. NW 333-0111 Hours: Lunch, 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Friday; dinner, 5:30 to 11 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Closed Sunday. Prices: Appetizers $2.10 to $4.20, entrees $2.10 to $9.95. Cards: MasterCard, Visa.
From the outside looking in, the Greek Port restaurant seems not to want to draw much attention to itself. The facade is a modest display window, sporting little more than a few leftover Christmas baubles and a hand-written menu, hidden in the corner. Behind that, a veil of curtains shields the dining room from the view of passers-by. If it weren't for the sign hanging high above the entrance outside, you'd never think this wallflower to be a restaurant.
Inside, it is far homier than the exterior would suggest, a cross between a living room and a seaside cafe. The nautical theme is played out on the wallpaper, in the blue and white color scheme, and in the modest framed paintings of beached sailing vessels. The aroma is that of onions and meat, the sounds emanating from the kitchen are of chopping and sauteing. Lively Greek music completes the multisensory picture.
And the staff -- mom and pop (a k a owners Moskos and Despina Nomikos) -- are a refreshing if offbeat departure from the Georgetown norm. She's a delight, motherly and efficient. He's a ringer for (remember "I Love Lucy"?) Fred Mertz, and about as lively. Upon arrival, you don't get so much a greeting as a finger pointing to an empty table. And after taking your order and handing it to the cook through a window, he's likely to pick up a newspaper and sit back in an easy chair or switch on the television.
More often than not, patrons find themselves sitting in on personal moments in the lives of the owners. At lunch one day, the hosts engaged in a three-way telephone conversation from different points in the dining room, while diners sat awaiting their bills (which, by the way, include a 15 percent gratuity).
As one might expect from a Greek restaurant, a lot of the food here is heavy, home-style stuff. And the selection is limited to the traditional Greek repertoire of sauteed chicken livers and salads of olives and feta cheese for appetizers, and main dishes of pretty ordinary spanikopita (spinach and tangy cubes of feta enveloped in overbrowned pastry) and better eggplant moussaka, combined with ground beef and a topping of bechamel sauce.
On a bracing winter day, I'd start off with a bowl of the mild, earthy bean soup, a warming dish supported with rough-cut chunks of celery and carrot, to which a dash of pepper might be a welcome addition. Another good opener is the mousse-like taramsalata. The characteristic salinity of this dish -- a fluff of mashed cod roe, lemon juice and bread crumbs -- pairs well with the loaves of crusty, warm bread that accompany it.
Among the entrees, the meat dishes -- tender, flavorful slices of roast lamb come to mind -- taste of long cooking, although one might wish for less greasiness on the plate. Almost as good is the paprika-dusted chicken with orzo, graced with a light, silken tomato sauce.
On a less hefty note, the tender mouthfuls of sauteed squid make for a winner of a dish. With the lightest of flour coatings lending a delicate, homey flavor, a squeeze of lemon is all you'll need to improve on the simple freshness of the squid.
This kind of food leaves little room for the kitchen's supersweet baklava, which is not worth the extra calories. Opt for a cup of Greek coffee, or better yet, a walk around the block.
In all, the prices are moderate, the location convenient, the food soothing and filling at the Greek Port. While the show in the dining room can occasionally upstage what comes forth from the kitchen, the sailing is generally smooth at this quirky, albeit charming, taverna.Tom Sietsema is on the staff of The Washington Post Food section.