Saturday, May 18, 2013

Athena

Location:  212 S. Halsted St., Chicago, IL 60661
Athena on Urbanspoon
A Quick Word:
When coming to Greektown in Chicago, I choose between two primary dining experiences--most authentic food vs. best ambiance.  Athena definitely wins the latter... with easily the best outdoor dining experience in the Greektown/UIC area.  Their patio is beautiful, lined with flowers and vines and flowing water pieces.  There is a clear roof for whenever rain hits, but during the summer months, that roof is retracted.  The food here is OK.  The portions are definitely worth the price, but some dishes lack spices, while others are just difficult to eat.  While sitting outside, definitely split a bottle of Greek wine and remember Free Valet Parking.  Because the waiters tend to rush their customers and the minor misses on food preparation, I decided to give them a 3 mile rating.  Amazing patio area, good wine, and average food.  Just please, learn to leave tables along for longer than 5 minute spans.

What We Ate:

Taramosalata

This classic greek dish is not for everyone.  The dish is made by mixing mashed potatoes with a large amount of fish roe.  It is garnished with a couple olives, a few cubes of cucumber, and served with pita bread.  The dish is extremely fishy... for anyone that dislikes that fishy flavor, definitely do not order this appetizer.  If you cannot imagine what this dish is like, think fishy hummus.  The olives are a good contrasting flavor, but overall the dish is pretty one-noted--fish.

Spanakopita

Whenever one of my buddies thinks Greek food, he thinks spanakopita or what he calls "spankatopia". This baked pastry is filled with spinach and feta cheese and wrapped in filo dough.  The spanakopita at Athena is huge and generously stuffed.  After being baked, the filo dough crust becomes crispy and flaky.  The spinach and feta filling is almost too rich from all that cheese.  I suggest adding a little spice or at least black pepper to cut some of the cheese flavor.

Combination Plate

The combination plate is definitely my favorite dish to order.  One of my friends and I split this dish along with with taramosalata and had plenty of food.  Both her and I weren't starving so it worked out well.  The combination plate consists of a small portion of mousakas, pastitsio, dolmades, roasted leg of lamb, rice pilaf, roasted potatoes, and peas.  My favorite part of the dish was the dolmades.  Ground beef and rice is wrapped in grapevine leaves and topped with an egg-lemon sauce.  The acidity from the lemon and grapevine leaves is the addicting part for me.  Mousakas and pastitsio are very similar dishes--both remind me of lasagna with mousaka being layered with eggplant, zucchini, potato, ground beef and cheese, while pastitsio is baked macaroni instead of the vegetables.  Both are topped with a rich b├ęchamel sauce.  The roasted leg of lamb is extremely tender and well flavored.  Definitely mix the peas, rice, and lamb into one huge bite.  With the combination plate... you will not be disappointed.

Ortikia

On of my other friends had the ortikia.  This dish consists of three char-broiled quails that have been seasoned simply with lemon and oregano.  The dish also comes with that amazing rice pilaf and oven roasted potatoes.  The quails had a nice char crust to them, but unfortunately, these were extremely hard to eat.  The quails have to be eaten using your hands, especially with all the small bones.  The price is reasonable, the the quails are on the smaller side.  I would rather have a similar quail dish in Chinatown.

The DOs/DON'Ts:
DO:
- FREE Valet Parking.  Just pull up in front of the restaurant.  Remember to tip!
- One of the best outdoor dining spots in the city.  Huge porch that can be converted to indoor if the weather gets bad.

DON'T:
- Sometimes I feel rushed when eating here... so don't be surprised in waiters come around several times to check on how the meal is going.
- No flamed saganaki outdoors... well, that is disappointing.

How far would I walk for this food?



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