Greek Islands Grill
15410 New Hampshire Ave.
Silver Spring, MD 20905


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April 13, 2005
Dining with Pleasure
“Greek Hospitality Lives on in Cloverly Village Center”

By: M.J Pleasure

It was the opportunity of a lifetime for Agie Ziotis and Christina Xenohristos. Years of dreaming about opening their own restaurant became a reality earlier this year. Their Greek Islands Grill slipped into the former site of the Greek Taverna in Silver Spring when that restaurant moved to Rockville. It was such a good fit that the friends didn't even need to change the blue and white color scheme, the colors of the Greek flag.

Just from their names, you can tell these two women are no strangers to things Greek, including food. They worked together for 16 years at Tally Ho in Potomac, a restaurant owned by Xenohristos' sister and brother-in-law. Steeped in the family business since age 12, Xenohristos hardly looks old enough to have worked at Tally Ho for more than three decades.

"I enjoyed every minute of it, talking to people — that's what I'm doing," she says.

Greek music drifts through the dining room. Booths rim the perimeter of the large square space. In the center, a faux grape arbor, supported by four ionic columns, stretches above white clothed tables adorned with blue place mats and fresh flowers. Both owners circulate through the dining room with ease, exchanging banter with customers and keeping an eye on things.

Specials this evening include an abundance of fresh fish. Salmon, red snapper, rockfish, trout stuffed with spinach and feta, mahi mahi with artichokes and Greek Island smelts reflect the bounty of the deep. Lamb, a perennial favorite, appears as lamb shank and lamb kapama and the variety of meats includes veal stew and roast lemon chicken.

The extensive regular menu has more than enough to satisfy lite appetites as well as heavy hitters. Creating a meze, that is, making a meal of appetizers is easy. The Islands hot combination, for example, provides a satisfying sampling of tender calamari, succulent shrimp, delicate scallops and spicy sausage plus breaded and fried cheese Saganaki and mushrooms filled with the same winning spinach-feta mixture as spanakopita. The lemon-kissed avgolemono soup is a favorite of customers — and ours, too.

The kitchen is well versed in the classics: bechamel-topped mousaka (layered ground beef, eggplant and potatoes) and pastitsio (ground beef and ziti), multilayered spanakopita and rice-filled dolmades (grape leaves). The traditional Greek sampler has all these along with a tasty lamb chop and Greek potato. Everything on this delicious tour de force is first-rate.

The cook is a holdover from the previous restaurant, but Ziotis and Xenohristos are putting their stamp on the kitchen as well. Xenohristos is justly proud of introducing spanakopita, adapted from her grandmother's spinach pie recipe. It has more dill, more feta, cream cheese and crisper filo — and more flavor, we concur. With so much fresh fish available, choosing is difficult.  But it is impossible to pass up the whole broiled rockfish. Dusted with herbs, the grilled fish is moist and delightful. Simple does it almost anytime. The kitchen works wonders with salmon, stuffing it with crab or serving it with black and white sesame seeds, wine sauce and mushrooms.

A chicken souvlaki platter with feta, salad, tzatziki and pita is pure Greek comfort food.

Desserts go beyond traditional filo pastries like honey and walnut-laced baklava and crusted-filled galaktoboureko. Greek rice pudding vies with America's favorite, apple pie and Italy's gift, tiramisu, among others. "Yasou" proclaims the cup containing our Greek coffee.

Lunch, including sandwiches and salads, is served Monday to Saturday until 4 p.m. All you can eat buffets Wednesday (5 to 9 p.m.) and Sunday (11 a.m. to 3 p.m.) are $16.95. Thursday's lunch buffet (11 a.m. to 2 p.m.) is $11.95.

Life will only get sweeter as the season progresses. The large covered patio will be just the place to relax, sip a glass of wine and enjoy a meal in warm weather. Looking ahead, Greek Islands Grill will celebrate its first Greek Night on Saturday, May 7, from 10:30 p.m. to whenever, with live bouzouki music and dancing.

"They used to break dishes. Now they just, throw money," Xenohristos says.



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