The best place to get Greek food in Maryland is in Baltimore, where there is a large Greek community. Unfortunately, that is a bit far from my usual stomping grounds. However, there are several good options in the metropolitan area just outside of Washington DC that are close to me. Here are my favorites.
Marathon Deli is an old favorite, having been in College Park for close to 50 years. Just south of the University of Maryland, it recently moved just around to the corner to a eye catching new location directly on Route 1.
Many of my friends consider Marathon as having the best gyros around. They are quite good and that is what I normally get there. You can get the gyro either in a pita or on a platter. It just depends on how hungry you are. I love them. In addition the gyros, I highly recommend Marathon’s fries. Served with a Greek vinaigrette, they have a great, unique spice.
Yia Yia’s Kitchen
Besides gyros, there are several traditional Greek dishes that I look for. The first is what I call a real Greek salad but its real name is Hortiatiki (Village) Salad. It’s the kind of salad you get when you order one in Greece: no lettuce, but plenty of tomatoes and cucumbers, along with onions, green peppers, and olives and lots and lots of feta. Yia Yia’s version does not disappoint.
Other things I look for are Spanakopita; Turopita (cheese pie); and Pastichio, a casserole made from pasta, ground beef, and tomato sauce. Yia Yia’s has all that and more. You can get a taste of what they have to offer with the sampler platter, which consists of Spanakopita (spinach pie), Turopita (cheese pie), Dolmades, Hummus, and Moussaka. It’s a great deal. I should note that their Spanakopita is different from what you find elsewhere. The dough is solid and not a flaky filo dough and the filling is mostly cheese with spinach mixed in. It’s good, just be aware of what you are going to get. The standout in the sampler is the Dolmades. Thick, filled with mostly meat, and covered in a tasty dill sauce, it is a delight.
The sign on their front claims they have “The Gyros In The Area!” The gyros, which are served with a side (lettuce) salad, are good. But they are not better than Marathon’s. My favorite dish is their lamb special: a lamb shank slow cooked and served with a tomato sauce, Greek style green beans, and a lettuce salad. It is succulent.
The Big Greek Cafe
Next on my list is The Big Greek Cafe. They have locations in Rockville, Kensington, and Bethesda, but I’ve only been to their original location in Silver Spring. It’s been on Georgia Ave since 2009, but they have recently moved about 300 feet down the street. It too has a assortment of traditional food, just like Grandma (Yia yia) used to make.
In addition to these traditional dishes — including Spanakopita, Hummus, Gyros, Souvlaki, Moussaka, and Pastichio — The Big Greek Cafe also has some interesting variations as well.
One variation that I highly recommend is the Hercules burger. It is a burger served with tzatziki sauce. The burger is large, moist, and delicious and the tzatziki sauce complements in well.
The Big Greek Cafe also has a variety of entrees, including: Crispy flounder, Roast Greek chicken, and Grilled salmon. All of these are traditional dishes, but not always carried by Greek restaurants. My favorite dish is their Hortiatiki salad; it’s chuck fill with tomatoes and cucumbers. I just love it. Though it is a little light on the feta.
The new location is small, but don’t let that fool you. The food is first rate.
Just a couple of hundred yards up Georgia Ave from The Big Greek Cafe is another good Hellenic restaurant, The Greek Place. It looks fancier and certainly is larger, but I think the quality of food is higher at Greek Cafe. The Greek Place‘s Hortiatiki salad does have a lot of feta, though.
While having a full slot of traditional Greek dishes, they also have some American items as well. This includes several burgers and a handful of different kinds of Panini.
The dish I recommend, though, is their Tour of Greece, which contains samplings of Moussaka and Pastichio, along with a Spanakopita and some pita bread with tzatziki sauce. Their Spanakopita is more traditional the Yia Yia’s — filled with spinach and covered with a flaky filo dough crust. But the highlight is the Pastichio, which has plenty of meat and is covered with a flavorful red sauce.
These are my favorite Greek restaurants in the area. All have take out service during the COVID 19 pandemic. Please let me know of your own favorites, in either the metro-DC area or near Baltimore area.