Athenian Grill is a feel-good story of great food getting the support of those who love it and making it in this tough restaurant town. Athenian Grill started as a pop-up food truck which I enjoyed outside of West Sixth Brewery. Deciding to take the leap into a brick-and-mortar building, the owners launched a Kickstarter campaign that quickly gained steam. They achieved their goal and opened the business to a crowd of people that continues to demand more Greek food.
If you don’t know where the restaurant is, you may never see it from the road. When driving on South Ashland, you must turn into the USB parking lot that is located between the USB building and the coin laundry mat. It’s back from the road so go ahead and pull into the parking lot and head to the cute building at the back. There are only a few spots designated for Athenian Grill customers that I assume are closely watched during the day.
There is a lovely outdoor seating area that is comfortable and usually full in the early evening hours when the weather is nice. The inside is a little tight with only a few tables downstairs and upstairs. If you should get there are there is no seating available, go ahead and order your food to-go. Their containers are paper-based and compostable.
Over the dozens of times we have eaten here, we have tried most of the menu… that is available. I love trying new foods so I keep asking about the soups and dips. They have specialty dips on their menu that they have never had in the restaurant. I have been told that they are reworking the menu and these items will be removed. Bummer for me but for a restaurant this small, I understand the necessity to consolidate the menu.
Foods I love: the Greek salad ($3.50 for a small side) is delicious. It’s a light mix of greens, cucumbers, olives, red onion, and feta. Thankfully the onions are left large enough to where I can pick them out but my friends find the flavor complementary. I love the tyropitakia (cheese pies; $5.00 for 3) but I don’t allow myself those often. Nice and crispy with a sweet cheese inside, these can be shared so as to not feel too decadent. By far, my favorite dish is the spanakopita, the traditional Greek spinach pie ($7.25 with a small side salad). The baked pie has a layer of phyllo on top that provides a nice crunch to go with the softness of the spinach, feta, and onion filling.
I’ve also tried and enjoyed the Cypriot Meatballs ($8.75 with a side, get the potatoes!) and various versions of the gyros. The gyros ($7.00) are served in soft, thick pita topped with tzatziki, lettuce, tomato, and onion. This is served partially wrapped in aluminum foil. Look at the whole thing before diving in as you may want to rearrange the food to get a good filling to pita ratio. I’ve enjoyed the Lamb, the Classic, and the Vegetarian. The chicken was not as dried out as I expected but I wouldn’t get it again. The htipiti was enjoyable. Htipiti ($6.00) is a roasted red pepper dip with chunks of feta served with pita. It has a slightly sharp, almost tangy, flavor to it that wasn’t too appealing though.
Athenian Grill, like any good Lexington eatery, sells a selection of local beers. I enjoy the West Sixth Brewing Company’s Cocoa Porter ($3.00) but any of their beers is good.
It feels good to eat at Athenian Grill because of the local support it received in being able to open its doors. While the owners are not born in Kentucky, they have become Lexingtonians through and through with how they have embraced the community and how the community has embraced them. I really should have gone for the $5000 donation which would have given me free food there for life.