Athenian Grill

Things have changed at the space formerly occupied by Jean Luc's Bistro

Chef's Special (Athenian Surprise)
Chef's Special (Athenian Surprise) (Photo By John Anderson)

Athenian Grill

705 Colorado, 482-8988

Lunch: Monday-Saturday, 11am-5pm

Dinner: Monday-Thursday, 5-10pm; Friday-Saturday, 5-10:30pm

Things have changed at the space formerly occupied by Jean Luc's Bistro, one of Austin's finest upscale eateries. In stark contrast, the Athenian Grill features fast-food-style photos of lunch specials above the open kitchen window and a soda machine sitting on the counter. The atmosphere is relaxed, and the staff has a casual attitude. The menu is affordable, and while not very extensive or varied, it offers something for everyone, including some vegetarian options and many standbys of Greek cuisine. Many tables were filled and the conversation was lively on the night of our visit.

We started dinner with the Greek meze appetizer plate ($5.50), a sampling of some Greek favorites served with warm pita points. The spanakopitta and tiropeta, small triangles of phyllo dough stuffed respectively with spinach and cheeses, were perfectly golden and flaky. The dolma (stuffed grape leaf) was very tasty and firm (I hate them when they're mushy). The tzatziki was refreshing and garlicky, and the keftedes – spicy meatballs stewed in a flavorful tomato sauce – were my favorite.

The entrées come with a house salad of romaine lettuce, sliced tomatoes, and kalamata olives, with a creamy house dressing and a generous portion of deliciously tangy feta cheese. We sampled the nightly special ($14.95), roasted leg of lamb and feta cheese wrapped inside phyllo dough, served with tzatziki and tiny green lima beans baked in a savory tomato sauce. The lamb was tender inside the crispy phyllo crust, but I thought the dish was a bit dry. I would have liked it better had it had some sort of sauce. The gyro and chicken combination plate ($11.99) was a good way to sample two of their spit-roasted meats. While the gyro was good, the chicken was superbly moist and flavorful and really was a pleasant surprise. The ample portions of meat were accompanied by rice pilaf, tiropeta, and keftedes.

The best deal was the chef's special, or Athenian surprise ($16.95), which is a full five-course meal. First course was a sampling of hummus, tzatziki, and bell peppers stewed in tomato sauce. Then came a house salad and the overall favorite: a cup of wonderful avgolemono soup. The most satisfying soup I have had in a long time, it was made with a rich chicken stock, amply flavored with fresh lemon juice and studded with shredded chicken, orzo, and tiny carrot cubes. The entrée consisted of a succulent slice of roasted lamb, juicy and fork tender; a dry-ish slice of pasticcio made of ground beef and macaroni, and sliced grilled potatoes. Dessert was kataifi, a roll of phyllo stuffed with a very sweet nutmeat paste.

While the Athenian Grill experience was good, there are a few kinks that need ironing out. They serve wine but have no wine list, which complicates the ordering process. If you want seafood, you have to go on a Wednesday for the fish-of-the-day special; there are no fish or seafood entrées on the regular menu, which seems odd since Greek cuisine is full of wonderful seafood dishes. Lastly, their only two dessert options are way too similar to offer any real choice. Regardless, after the closing of the historic Ted's Diner, Downtown Austin needed a good Greek food fix, and Athenian Grill is sure to hit the spot.

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