Astor Mediterranean may pride itself on the freshness and healthfulness of its cuisine, but those qualities aren’t exactly at the forefront of your mind when warm pita bread is primed to snatch a bit of juicy kabob or dip into a well-seasoned bean spread. The taste takes the focus. Even the restaurant’s bargain prices and fast-casual convenience take a backseat to contemplation and enjoyment of the rich Mediterranean flavors of a meal at Astor.
The Arlington outpost of this family-owned business, the younger sibling to the long-established Adams Morgan location, can be found just off of Route 50 at the window-trimmed corner of a large building on Pershing Drive. A step inside reveals a feast for the eyes, with much of the menu on full display in glass cases flanking the counter where orders are placed. Long skewers of meat, the cubed pieces brightly hued with seasoning and ready for some heat, can be found in one case. In another are massive serving bowls of dips, spreads, and salads – delicacies which make up the majority of the appetizer offerings.
The menu offers about a dozen appetizer options, all of which can be ordered for less than $5. But among the Vegetarian entrée selections (all of which can be made vegan) is the Astor Vegetarian ($9.95), which makes a meal out of a helping of each appetizer. Here you’ll find some small falafel pucks, with a deep-fried shell that’s nicely crunchy but easily gives way to a soft ground chickpea center. There’s a chickpea salad, as well, that has whole chickpeas and bits of onion and carrot. Chickpeas and tahini combine for Astor’s smooth and smoky hummus, a classic Mediterranean dish and a highlight of the platter. The fava bean dip has a similar texture, but with a tiny bit of heat. There’s a sweet and earthy beet salad with carrots, and another salad with tiny lentils. There’s a rustic baba ghanoush, the popular eggplant dish, as well as some pieces of baked eggplant. Citrusy stuffed grape leaves, tabouli, and an Egyptian salad of tomato, cucumber, and red onion round out the giant platter. A flaky, buttery piece of spinach pie is served on the side.
The Grill entrée section offers a similar opportunity to try a variety of dishes with its Mixed Kabob ($13.95). Here, you’re treated to skewers of tender beef and chicken, herby lamb, and savory and peppery kufta (a mix of ground meats). Quarter and half chickens and leg of lamb, all with the choice of two sides, are also available.
Among the sandwich offerings is a quality Gyro ($6.50), with ample strips of seasoned ground lamb packed into a warm pita with feta cheese, tomato, cucumber, and a little dose of wonderfully powerful tzatziki sauce. Salads and pizzas are also offered as entrées.
The prices, the convenience of its location, the promise of a fresh and healthy meal: There are many things to like about Astor Mediterranean. But the great flavors made here, presented in plentiful variety and showcasing spot-on renditions of the quintessential dishes of Mediterranean cuisine, are the restaurant’s crowning achievement.
Astor Mediterranean is located at 2300 N. Pershing Drive, Arlington. For more information, call 703-465-2306 or visit astorfoods.com. Restaurant hours are Monday – Saturday: 11 a.m. – 10:30 p.m. and Sunday: 11 a.m. – 9:30 p.m.