At Zesty's, whole fish still a draw at this Manayunk pioneer

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Wood-grilled whole dorade at Zesty's in Manayunk.

Nearly a quarter-century is a long time for any restaurant to be around, especially in a neighborhood with as much turnover as Manayunk.

And Zesty's, which became one of the neighborhood's pioneers in 1993, is an admittedly curious candidate to achieve such longevity.

The dining room is a seemingly random hodgepodge of bold blue and red furniture lighted by dangling globe map lamps, with fish tanks and the occasional live-music act strumming away covers in the corner.

Nearly the entire crowd on New Year's Eve, when we happened in spontaneously, appeared to be related.

But I was quickly reminded, once the food started arriving, what has given this standby the goods to survive a neighborhood's ups and downs.

Owner Tom Konidaris' place remains one of the area's solid destinations for classic Greek taverna fare, from huge braised lamb shanks to flamed saganaki cheese. In particular, his kitchen specializes in some outstanding whole fish.

My dorade was large for $34 - nearly two pounds - and perfectly cooked, the heat-crisped fillets deboned and butterflied open beneath a lemony gloss of Kalamata olive oil, saffron, and capers.

And it was served with the head and tail, of course. "Don't miss all the meat on that head!" manager Eric Papougenis advised, just as I was digging into the cheeks. Such old-world charms and good ingredients, no doubt, may be the keys to Zesty's longevity.

 
- Craig LaBan
Whole dorade, $34, Zesty's, 4382 Main St., 215-483-6226; zestys.com