For more than two decades, Astor Mediterranean, a tiny dine-in and carryout Middle Eastern cafe on Columbia Road in Adams Morgan, has been a neighborhood favorite for quick and easy kebabs, salads and pizzas. And while, like most Mediterranean places, it is vegetarian friendly, it has openly embraced vegans the past few years by adding dairy-free cheese alternatives to its repertoire and marking its menu in vegan-friendly ways.
Impressively, that has been done without any sacrifice to the quality or price of its fare, making Astor one of those rare destinations that pleases folks across the carnivore-herbivore spectrum, as well as their wallets.
On the menu: There is nothing unexpected on Astor’s menu. It’s filled with staples: chicken, beef, lamb and kofta kabobs, fresh salads, gyros and other sandwiches, as well as the usual dips and sides. That doesn’t mean there aren’t a few surprises among the familiar Eastern Mediterranean comfort foods.
Take the pizzas, for example: The thick, square-cut crusts, sprinkled with cumin seed, are light and crispy on the outside, chewy within. Toppings include pepperoni, kofta sausage and grilled chicken.
The best of the bunch is a spicy, meatless option called the Egyptian. Jalapeno peppers give it some kick, while tomatoes and baked eggplant provide sweetness and smoky depth. That eggplant is good enough to stand on its own, which it does as one of the restaurant’s starters, a tasty vegetarian take on Egyptian moussaka. The eggplant also makes an appearance in one of Astor’s best bargains, the vegetarian platter, a large and colorful plate of baba ghanouj, hummus, spinach pie, stuffed grape leaves, tabbouleh, lentils, spicy chickpeas, beet salad and falafel for $8.95.
The Astor Burger is another surprising value. The patty is a mix of ground sirloin and lamb topped with feta, tomato and tzatziki sauce. Despite being cooked to medium unasked, the burger is juicy and flavorful, and at $4.50 it’s hard to nitpick.
At your service: Place your order at the counter, and try to grab one of a few indoor seats. The warmer weather makes Astor a more attractive lunch spot as the restaurant spreads its awning for some alfresco eating.
Across the river: Astor has a younger, larger sibling in Arlington on Pershing Drive. It features an almost identical menu, has quite a few more tables (indoors and out), and delivers.
1829 Columbia Rd. NW, 202-745-7495; 2300 N. Pershing Dr., Arlington, 703-465-2306. www.astorfoods.com.
Hours: Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-10:30 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m. (both locations).
Prices: Appetizers $3.75-$4.50, sandwiches $4.50-$6.65, salads $5.75-$7.09, entrees $8.95-$12.95, pizza $8.75-$15.