Date-worthy cuisine: Levante’s

Have you memorized the sandwich list at ABP? Do you have the numbers of the campus food delivery services programmed into your speed dial? Does the thought of one more dinner at Bertucci’s upset you? If so, maybe it’s time to stretch your legs and explore what Dupont Circle can offer.

Dupont Circle is a great place to start your culinary journey and is only a 10 – to 15 – minute walk from campus. Levante’s – located at 1320 19th Street – offers traditional Mediterranean cuisine and is perfect for birthdays, celebrations or that ever-clich? first date. This restaurant is ideal for the GW student who wants to eat well on a tight budget.

Levante’s itself is quite an oasis for the overworked student’s eyes – beautifully folded napkins, fuchsia flowers and lit candles. The crowd is comprised of mostly 30-something professionals who are too engaged in their intellectual conversation to judge your attire, so feel free to throw on that prom dress or a pair of chucks.

But what about the food? There’s no need to order appetizers at Levante’s because huge pieces of pita bread are served promptly. Be sure to dip them in the spice-infused olive oil for a satisfying and complimentary treat. The creamy and zesty lentil soup makes an excellent pre-meal indulgence and is also economically friendly ($3.50 for an oversized cup.)

Unfortunately, if you take a long time debating over what to order, you may wish to dine elsewhere – the staff is attentive, but at times impatient. So what should you order? As a Mediterranean restaurant, there is an overwhelming number of options. Of course, there is Greek salad ($9.50) or, for the more adventurous, try the tabbouleh, a parsley salad with crushed wheat, onion, olive oil and fresh lemon ($5.95). If you’re a Med-neophyte, you may want to stick with the pasticcio – a pasta-based dish similar to lasagna, available with shrimp, beef or vegetable ($10). There are also pides, or “baked pizza boats” ($7-10), and kebabs ($14-20).

Falafel sandwiches can be considered to be like the Wendy’s cuisine of the Mediterranean – they’re delicious, made in a hurry and frequently quite sloppy. Levante’s manages to dress up the falafel and provide you with an elegant dinner. One warning: the sandwiches are absolutely enormous. Do not order a pita sandwich on a first date. The slob inside of you will be revealed, and unless you have a really understanding (or equally sloppy) counterpart, there may not be a second date.

Plates are whisked away as soon as the final fork is put down, and then it’s time for dessert, the most important part of any meal. For $5 each, you can order a number of different pastries, including baklava and tiramisu. The baklava – a pastry baked with pistachio and dipped in honey – is sweet, not too nutty and has a dense, sticky consistency, which tastes authentically Middle Eastern. The tiramisu is delectable as well, but does not have that permeated coffee and rum taste that it is most often known for. The baklava is great for sharing, but for sealing the deal on a date, I recommend splitting the tiramisu instead.

For delicious, inexpensive, hearty portions, Levante’s makes a great dining spot for gastronomic connoisseurs in the making. Open for lunch, dinner and brunch on Sundays, Levante’s is a convenient way to remind yourself what a great meal tastes like.

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