Monday, September 12, 2011

Athens on 86th

Every once in awhile I get in the mood for Greek food, mainly because I have a thing for phyllo dough, and recently a friend told me that she liked this place because the food is good and the waiters are cute. So of course, I had to check it out.  It is one of those strip mall restaurants that are so prevalent in Indy that sort of take you by surprise because their interiors are nicer than what you might think.  It had a nice little outdoor seating area too, although they had just resurfaced the parking lot and the smell would have ruined my meal.  There were a couple of brave souls out there though.
So, as I mentioned, I love phyllo, so often appetizers are some of my favorite items in a Greek place. I also love hummus in general, so again, my favorite part of the menu is the top part.  Hubby and I have often wanted to get the saganaki, or flaming cheese, and have never seemed to make it happen because we are always so busy ordering other things.  This time, we decided to go hog wild with the appetizers and split an entrée.
So we started with the saganaki ($6.99), which is kasseri cheese which is lit on fire at your table and doused with lemon.  (Opa!)  The cheese itself a fairly hard salty cheese that is made all melty and a little crispy on the edges with the whole lighting on fire thing. But I especially liked the squeeze of lemon juice used to put out the flames because it gave it a real tangy flavor that was really nice with rich melty caramelized cheese.  They gave us some toasty warm pita to put it on.  How could you really go wrong?
So we also ordered a sampler platter of their cold spreads (a la hummus) ($12.49)  because they had several that sounded unique as well as good.  I mean, you see hummus and tzatziki most everywhere, but here while those were on the platter, so were several other things.  Honestly, the hummus was one of my least favorites.  It was a little thicker and less pureed than I like, and didn’t have a lot of flavor, especially compared to the others.  We enjoyed the taramosalata, which was a new one to me, and was a smoother spread made with lemon juice, olive oil and caviar as well as other things—pretty sure it was probably a chickpea base as well. It looked a lot like hummus, but was quite intensely salty from the caviar.  I enjoyed eating it along with the other dips, but a whole dish of it may have been too much.  Probably our other favorite spread was the scordalia, which was also one I don’t think I have had before. It was a potato base, with quite a bit of lemon, as well as olive oil and garlic.  Again, it was a nice fresh flavor—very lemony, but not sure if I could eat an entire dish of it. A little of the two mixed together (or with the hummus) were kind of nice because you got a little of both kinds of flavors.  There was also melitzanosalata which is an eggplant based spread with roasted eggplant, garlic, onion, olive oil and lemon blended into a spread. This one had a bit of heat to it—mainly from a lot of garlic I think.  It was a nice texture variation though as it had more of the vegetable consistency than the beans/potato type consistency.  Tzatziki (which is a sour cream/yogurt sauce with heavy cucumber flavor) is fine with me, but more as a condiment to other things, and less of a dip on its own.  Ok, I have seriously talked about dips for far too long.
Before we got our main dish to split—another sampler of sorts, hubby got the Greek salad that came with and so I ordered a cup of the avgolemeno ($3.69) which was described as an velvety egg-lemon chicken soup with orzo.  The soup didn’t really do anything for me.  I sort of expected it to be more eggy somehow, and it was more like a slightly thickened chicken broth with orzo (the large pasta shaped like rice).  The salad was good though—lots of feta and a nice tangy vinaigrette.
So my biggest disappointment came with the main dish which was the “Pikilia Taste of Athens” ($20.89).  It had lots of different things including what is often my favorite thing, spanikopita, or spinach pie (phyllo!) and  tyropita which is basically just a cheese version made with feta and herbs.  The spanikopita tasted like frozen spinach to me, which is not a flavor I care for at all (and I really like spinach).  It was mixed with cheese and wrapped in the phyllo, but it couldn’t win me over. I preferred the cheese pie, but it was a middle of the pack of other versions I have had.  The mousaka wasn’t bad—it is layers of eggplant, ground beef and potato that is topped with béchamel and baked—sort of like a Greek version of lasagna.  It was probably one of my favorite items on this dish, but while I am pretty sure cinnamon is generally an ingredient in the dish, it seemed a little too cinnamon-y for me. Started crossing the line between savory and sweet for me. Hubby’s favorite was the pastichio which is macaroni mixed with ground beef, topped with more of the béchamel and baked.  Again, sort of like a slightly different version of lasagna as well. Similar flavors to the mousaka, but not as cinnamon-y. There was also gyros meat, which tasted, well, like gyros meat, which hubby is a better judge of, and he thought it was too dry.  Honestly, I didn’t get to the dolmades (stuffed grape leaves) because I had had enough at this point, and they are never my favorite.  They certainly give you a lot of food on this plate and it is certainly enough to share (there was also green beans and roasted potato).
Our service was extremely friendly, and the restaurant had a nice business of what appeared to be a fair amount of regulars.  I know I say this all the time, but if it were in my neighborhood, I might be inclined to visit every so often. I would certainly stick to appetizers though.
And yes, the waiters were indeed cute.
Athens on 86th
2284 West 86th Street
Indy  46260

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  1. For another take on this type of food I'd recommend the Mediterranean Grill in Avon. It's another strip mall type restaurant, but the food is great. They have a wonderful swordfish steak!

  2. Have you eaten at Bosphorus Turkish Café? They serve the best hummus I've had in Indy, and the baklava is to die for. It's not overly sweet like a lot of places.

  3. I have always enjoyed Santorini Greek Kitchen. It is a must when I get a craving for greek food.

  4. You had completely different service than what I had a few weeks ago. And the food was not good - I doubt I'll return for quite sometime after my experience.