The original Dmitri's (a second location is at 23rd and Pine, and a third location is in the works for Northern Liberties) is a tiny Greek BYOB on a corner in Queen Village, and is consistently on lists of top recommendations for anyone dining in Philly. Now, with a few visits under my belt, I'm scratching my head as to why.
But before you beat me over the head with comments, it's not that Dmitri's doesn't serve up some good food, it's just that I think the food and atmosphere are not flashing-lights-wow worthy of a visit from out-of-towners.
As an early forerunner in Philly's BYOB game, and with a quaint neighborhood location (if not tight and with a long wait), I will warn anyone with Dmitri's on their must-do-while-in-Philly list that Dmitri's is more of a beloved neighborhood institution, and not a destination restaurant. Although, devotees will surely disagree.
The one thing Dimitri's is renowned for is their grilled octopus, and while I don't eat octopus, on a recent visit three others at our table did. The unanimous sentiment was that the octopus was tough and over charred, with some bits burned to a crisp. Bad night for octopus at Dmitri's?
Dmitri's loves their grill, and they seem to grill things a bit too long, giving food an almost unpalatable char. The grilled pita bead was almost inedible. Thankfully there was also French bread. The baba ganoush also suffered from many charred bits, but not enough to make the roasted eggplant dish unpalatable.
Cucumber and dill soup was a special of the evening, and this huge bowl of what was more like a thick yogurt tzatziki sauce came out. Delicious, but not soup. We used it as a dip for the bread.
My favorite at Dmitri's are the beets with onions and vinaigrette. Simple, tangy, yet balanced...and huge! This 'little dish' was enough to feed our entire table, and then take some home. All of Dmitri's plates are on the large side. No small plates here, or going out for a late snack after eating at Dmitri's.
Dmitri's spinach pie is excellent, with flaky crust and ample spinach filling. Again, the portion is huge.
Back to the fish and meat eaters at our table, two of whom ordered the fried scallops and the seared scallops: both scallop dishes were cooked perfectly, with the fried scallops winning the taste contest (who doesn't like fried better?).
The seafood combination, an impossibly large bowl of garlicky broth containing shrimp, clams, mussels, fish, and scallops, was also ordered, and was declared winner of the entire evening not only for taste and variety (the whole ocean's in there!), but for value. Seriously huge!
So, Dmitri's serves up some good Mediterranean grub with simple flavors and ingredients at reasonable prices and large portions, and does a bang-up job with the seafood (octopus? meh). I can see why the place gets recommendations, but, still, if I had only a weekend in Philly I'd be miffed as to why I was sent here. Dmitri's really is a local love affair.
795 S. 3rd St., Philadelphia, PA 19147