The Souvlaki Project: Athens

wpid-20150422_131045.jpgAthens Restaurant
2801 Harlem Road
Cheektowaga, NY 14225

Wow did this one sneak up on me.

I frequented Athens around the age of 10, when I used to go to baseball card shows with my brother in law Cliff (Rest in Peace). We would hit the show, and more often than not, end up at a greek diner of sorts where he would get an open roast beef sandwich with fries and gravy and a Pepsi.

Other than that… I can’t remember the last time I went here on purpose. I popped in on a whim because I was driving by, it was lunch time, and I was starving. There is a huge “Try our $7 meal specials” banner on the window. The restaurant was filled with mostly senior citizens. They do decent Quickdraw business with a bunch of folks playing while they ate, and the requisite spinning carousel of deserts looked fresh and ready.  As busy as they were, I was immediately seated, and given a menu and told about the specials. The service was excellent. I ordered an unsweetened Iced Tea and a cup of Beef Barley soup while I perused the menu, and they showed up almost instantly. There is an intuition that these old school servers have where they just know when to interrupt and check in, and when to stay back. Their entire team looked well seasoned, and most seemed able to call the patrons by name.

Lets talk about Beef Barley soup for a second. This is a soup that everyone’s grandma or mom made. I ate it so much as a kid that I would never wpid-20150422_130218.jpgconsider ordering it until my mom ended up in assisted living and no longer has access to a kitchen. I make it sometimes, but its a pretty decent sized undertaking. One thing about this soup though, its almost always homemade, because Beef Barley doesn’t tend to sell well in the canned food world. Maybe its a regional thing. Anyway, the server brought my soup, and it was awesome. A great peppery broth with plenty of beef, it was served with oyster crackers, it was steaming hot, and all of the veggies were hand cut. Perfect for this endless winter. I will go back there just for this soup.

Now on to the Souvlaki.

First off, for $8.95 it was enormous. The salad was hand cut iceberg lettuce with sliced red onion, green peppers, and tomatoes. There was tons of feta luxuriously crumbled over the top. There was at least a pound of chicken, hand cut and cooked to order. It was well flavored, juicy, and had a nice char on it from the grill. The pita was hot and steaming and was definitely oiled before it was toasted, giving it a bit more of a crisp on the outside. This was a quality Souvlaki – someone cared about making it. They even gave me a steak knife. One pepperoncini and one Greek olive, as expected.

wpid-20150422_131058.jpgAs one should be able to expect with any Chicken Souvlaki, it came with a dill dip, but I like to cross the streams and leverage the Greek dressing in the cruet as well. This dressing is where Athens parted ways from most Souvlaki, and it will be make or break for most folks. The house dressing is a heavy vinegar dressing. It was almost an Italian dressing with Greek herbs like oregano added in. Now, I love a vinegar driven dressing so I really appreciated it, but this is NOT the standard Greek dressing, and some purists might be turned off by this counter-option on the classic oil and herb based accouterment.

I was NOT expecting this level of Souvlaki when I walked in the door but I was instantly impressed. I wouldn’t hesitate to take my mom or some other elderly person there to play QuickDraw and have some soup and Souvlaki. In fact, I daresay that this would be my moms favorite place, because she would love that vinegar dressing. I am now committed to taking her here. Couple this with great service and a pretty decent looking menu, I’d hit this place, and send my friends there. It is bound to be someone’s favorite. And if that isn’t enough – they have an Assorted Appetizer Plate that includes Pizza Logs, Mashed Potato Crisps (?), and Fried Veggies with Assorted dipping sauces for $5.99. Who isn’t going to hit that?


Leave a Comment.