Image: Dips and Specials.
Last Updated: September 2023
Méli has a few interesting plot twists on the way to a very good take on Greek. It is located off the lobby of a new apartment building, with residents and dogs wandering through your field of vision out the side door that you enter from. The new development zoning restrictions also apparently required some creative thinking about how to get a restaurant in a space that wasn’t zoned for it. The answer was to call it a club. For diners, though, it is essentially a restaurant that will require someone to spring for a $25 annual fee to have more than one visit (and maybe not that, depending on how they enforce it over time). Don’t be thrown off, it is worth the extra step.
The food here is very good and the menu uncomplicated. According to the website, they source “natural & organic ingredients” choosing products “free of hormones & antibiotics,” source locally and “prioritize sheep & goat dairy for a happier & healthier body.” Executive chef Kat Petonito, from the sibling restaurants on Capitol Hill and chef de cuisine Keri Wierczorek are behind the opening menu.
There are dips to start, htipiti pepper dip and feta, hummus with harissa, and tzatziki. You can swap out the pita chips for veggies or warm fresh pita (which was worth it). Mezze include a traditional Greek salad, a bowl of gigante beans, a hill of crispy potatoes, and two large smokey grilled prawns. On our visit, there were two specials. One of was quickly cooked sugar snap peas atop a tahini sauce. The other was warmed haloumi with honey small pieces of diced fruit (that could double as dessert). Based on both, keep an eye out for the specials. The larger plates are souvlaki. Meat options include a classic chicken of large chunks, ground meat bifteki, or for non-meat vegetables coated in herbs.
Consistent with the neighborhood feel, they have a kids menu. The one dessert on our visit was a large triangle of baklava that is packed with nuts but not as syrupy as many versions.
A robust wine program (see below for more) focused on Greek wines is the centerpiece of the drink options with a few options by the glass and many affordable options by the bottle. Danya Degen, who ran the strong program at Duck & the Peach put this one together. As for non-alcoholic, the Greek-ish iced tea with orange blossom is a delightful summer drink.
The space is connected to the lobby, though around the corner from the main entrance to the building, with its own separate entrance off to the side of the building main entrance. A light-filled atrium the unfolds above and is connected to an interior patio (that may be open for dining).
Hollis Silverman, a former executive with José Andrés’ Think Food Group, had immediate success with a trio of spots on Capitol Hill. The cool New American Duck & The Peach, the neighborhood Italian spot La Collina, and a gin joint called The Wells. Considering how quickly those places became integrated into the neighborhood it is not surprising that a neighborhood focus would carry over to the first spot off the Hill.
As mentioned, the restaurant is part of a club that is under the building’s umbrella. According to the site, “The Reed Cooke Club (named for the neighborhood schools) was formed to promote good neighborliness and community. All proceeds from our membership fees and events are designed to support our social and recreational activities and our nonprofit neighbors.” The site has a longer list of nonprofits it supports. Whether the club is out of necessity or altruism, we applaud the idea. According to the site, members, “will have access to our Méli Market, where they can bring a taste of Greece home with them. Our Market features our Méli Wine Club, where those who join will taste distinctive, delicious wines from Greece and its many islands. Offerings will also include Greek-ish grill-out boxes to-go, mezze takeaway, and more!” The wine shop’s online page was not up at the time of this posting, but the list is on the take-out ordering page.
Other Guidance: The Post accessibility rating: No barriers to entry; ADA-compliant restrooms. The menu does well for vegetarians and GF.
Washington Post: Tom’s initial write-up (posted a day after us) was positive. He reports a milk pudding has been added to the dessert options.