Athena Restaurant is located downtown across the street from the Plaza de la Constitucion, and has been for 30 years. Back in 2001, restaurateur George Chryssaidis purchased the Athena, and has since added three more local restaurants to his resume.
Diners are surrounded by a panoramic painting of old St. Augustine as they enjoy breakfast, lunch or dinner in the 40-seat Greek restaurant. Breakfast is American; lunch and dinner are Greek. The lunch menu features traditional gyros and souvlakia served on pita. Dinner features Greek entrees such as moussaka, pastito and lamb chops.
Everything from the traditional Greek avgo lemano — lemon chicken and rice soup — to baklava is homemade. Kids have a place of their own on the menu in the children’s corner.
Athena offers a distinctive wine selection along with domestic and imported beer.
Q&A WITH GEORGE CHRYSSAIDIS
How would you describe the restaurant’s atmosphere?
We are not fancy; we are a family restaurant. It is open and airy in here, and you can sit down to relax. You can go from visiting the busy downtown area to coming in here where there is plenty of room and have good healthy, homemade Greek food. A lot of locals eat here, too, so there is a nice mix.
What is your food philosophy?
Fresh, healthy and mostly organic. The ingredients are high quality. We don’t serve anything we wouldn’t eat. We change our special’s menu seasonally. We steer away from foods with saturated fats. Everything is made in house; like our yogurt, cucumber, garlic and olive oil Tzatziki sauce.
What types of cuisine do you specialize in?
We stay true to traditional Greek dishes for lunch and dinner. Start with grape leaves stuffed with rice and herbs, or saganaki — our flaming cheese. We are the only place in town that offers traditionally prepared lamb gyros. They are served on pita bread with lettuce, tomato, onion and our tzatziki sauce.
What is your signature dish?
Gyro or chicken souvlaki Greek combo served with Greek salad, grape leaf, tzatziki and pita bread. The souvlaki is made with marinated chunks of lamb, chicken or beef served on a pita like the gyro. We also offer a Greek salad that comes with lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, feta cheese, grape leaf and pepperoncinis. You can add anchovies, capers and gyro meat.
What would you recommend for a first timer?
One of three traditional entrees: moussaka, layers of potato, eggplant, ground beef with herbs and topped with our special bechamel sauce; pastitsio, layers of macaroni, ground beef with herbs topped with our bechamel sauce or the spinach pie with feta in a puffed pasty. All three entrees come with Greek salad. If you want to try all three, order the classic Greek combo.