Panos Kleftiko Taverna
815 Fifth Ave N, 301-0393

Mon 5:30-9:30 pm, Tues-Sat 5:30- 10:30 pm.

When the weather clears, I want Greek appetizers. It's no use thinking too deeply about this since it's one of those home truths, an instinct rather than something you can argue. In the same way, you know great Greek food when you find it--not your watery tzatziki, your bland taramasalata, your tired olives yearning to be free--but all those divine strong flavors, tart feta cheese, silky roasted peppers, briny intense olives, presented with care and attention to contrasts.

May I suggest Panos Kleftiko? This little taverna-style restaurant has a list of appetizers so extensive (many of them new to me) that it takes up four full pages of the menu. You can easily make a meal for two out of four or five dishes. I wasn't quick-witted enough to jot down the Greek names for most of what I ate--a perfect, creamy tzatziki ($3.65), artichoke hearts stuffed with salmon (with an endearing '50s canapé feel, $7.95), minced roasted red peppers with feta ($6.25), olives baked until utterly soft and powerfully olivey ($7.95), beautiful, pillowy pita bread ($1.25 for two pieces)--but that's not to say that the memory of the meal isn't perfectly clear and lovely.

Also, garlicky. I brushed my teeth twice when I got home and twice when I woke up the next morning and still had the persistent tang of garlic hanging around me for much of the day (it may have been coming out my pores).

Luckily Panos Kleftiko is a friendly place, although thankfully free of the kind of embarrassing theatrics I once suffered in a Greek restaurant in Greece with patrons throwing glasses at the fireplace and being forced to dance round the room like Anthony Quinn in Zorba the Greek.

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