Let me start by saying that Zaytinya is not a place I would have normally found myself. Middle eastern food is not something I had ever tried before (and so therefore not naturally on my radar) and the restaurant looks a little upscale from the street. Truth be told, it is upscale… but that shouldn’t scare you away!
Here’s the back story. I have been following along with the adventures of a guy named Andrew Evans (@wheresAndrew) on Twitter for several years now. Andrew has the fortune of working for National Geographic as their “Digital Nomad”… basically he gets paid to travel the world, take pictures, and blog and tweet about the whole thing. Pretty cool, right? Well, Andrew and I have been trying to meet up for a while, but timing never has been on our side; until my most recent trip to D.C., that is. Andrew had the idea of meeting at Zaytinya, and frankly when a guy like that recommends a restaurant, you go.
As for the food, it was wonderful! I wish I could remember everything we ate, but since we were all new to middle eastern food, we just let Andrew order; and order he did! We had the hommus, the baba ghannouge (which had an amazing smokey flavor!), and the fattoush. Next we had keftedes kapama and some octopus… and I lost track after that. I wasn’t personally a fan of the octopus, a little too fishy tasting for me (I am glad I tried it though), but the rest was EXCELLENT. I honestly think you could walk in and tell the waiter to surprise you, and you’d have a great meal.
Getting to Zaytinya is trivially easy. Take the Metro to the Chinatown / Gallery Place stop and exit towards Gallery Place and 9th. When you pop out of the subway, look straight in front of you. The big glass building with the giant metal piece of art of it is the place. They’ve got outdoor seating and a beautiful restaurant indoors. It seemed like reservations were in order, so I would make sure you do that (it can be done from their website). I would definitely make time to eat there on your next visit to D.C.!