East Tennessee lacks quality ethnic cuisine so any time that Laurie and I have a chance to step outside our ‘home area limitations’, we jump at the chance. Ethnic food is one of the few things that we miss about our former home in the Chicago metropolitan area…
Greek food is hard to find in the Knoxville area and it just doesn’t measure up to what we’d grown accustomed to in our previous life up north. On Trip Advisor, Athens Corner Grill is a very highly rated restaurant in Roanoke Virginia…coming in at #14 out of 366 restaurants. There is a small parking lot but it was full and like most customers, we ended up parking on the street.
Athens Corner Grill is not a huge restaurant but it is popular. For a Monday night, it was quite busy. The décor is simple, the restaurant was very clean and our server was helpful and attentive.
We started out with one of our favorite Greek appetizers…Saganaki. This traditional Greek cheese appetizer is prepared by dredging Mediterranean style firm yellow cheese in seasoned flour, then pan-searing it until its golden on the outside and bubbly inside. The cheese is flamed at the table and it’s served with toasted pita bread. (Pita bread is not shown in the photo)
The Saganaki was very nice although the price of Greek cheese must have spiked on the world market since we last sampled it. This little wedge of flamed cheese cost $10.95…
As one of our sides we both ordered a cup of Avgolemono, which is Greek Chicken Soup. It’s a blend of chicken, lemon and rice in a broth. Laurie liked it but I thought that it was just OK. I prefer a thicker consistency and a stronger lemon accent.
The base for Avgolemono soup is made with egg yolk and lemon juice mixed with chicken broth, then heated until it thickens. In reality, despite my preferences, this version is just on the other end of the spectrum for the soup, as traditionally its consistency varies from near-stew to near-broth.
Laurie and I were really excited about finally being able to order a Gyros Platter with Gyros that are actually carved off the spit. A restaurateur in Knoxville told us that we will never see gyros on a spit here in East Tennessee as it’s against the law as established by the local uninformed government ‘food gods’. Broiling or roasting gyros, traditionally a blend of lamb and beef in a giant loaf on a vertical spit, gives this meat a lot of flavor and texture. As a matter of fact, the term ‘gyro’ is from Greek, meaning ‘turn’.
Our Gyros Platters, ($12.95), were served with tzatziki and pita on the side, and a choice of French fries, lemon potatoes, or rice, plus the cup of soup or a side salad. The gyros were very nice, roasted perfectly and well-seasoned. The potatoes were a disappointment to me…a little soft and they lacked much flavor. Laurie thought the same and didn't finish hers.
Our biggest disappointment came when we asked the waitress if there was any garlic in the tzatziki sauce. She said that there might be a little…and indeed, there was very little. In Chicago after a gyros/tzatziki meal, you can taste the garlic for at least a day after finishing the meal. Fortunately, Laurie had one of my little bottles of Tabasco in her purse, so I could spice things up a bit… Still, despite any downsides as noted above, we did enjoy a pile of gyros cooked on a spit as they should be! (Thanks Bev for the little bottles of Tabasco!)
Laurie and I were both full…but we couldn’t resist sharing a bowl of creamy Rizogalo, (Greek Rice Pudding), topped with fresh ground cinnamon. ($3.95) It was a great way to top off our meal!
Although I can’t favorably compare Athens Corner Grill with our favorite Greek restaurants in Chicago, it is better than anything that we’ve had in East Tennessee…or in Nashville for that matter.
Athens Corner Grill is located at 1003 South Jefferson Street in Roanoke Virginia. They are open Monday – Saturday. Phone: 540-206-2210. Website: www.athenscornergrill.com.
Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…
Thanks for stopping by for a visit!
Take Care, Big Daddy Dave