Sunday, May 13, 2012

Athens

Nashville Restaurants and Food
Athens
2526 Franklin Road
Nashville
615-383-2848
www.athensfamilyrestaurant.com

It’s a catch-up day here at the Nashville Restaurants Blog. There are a few classic Nashville joints out there that we have not reviewed yet. While most of you have probably been to Athens Family Restaurant many times, we wanted to make sure it was represented on the blog. It’s one of the better breakfast spots in Nashville and a solid option for Greek cuisine.

The menu may be Greek diner but the atmosphere is homey, inviting and warm. The Aegean blue and white brings to mind a seaside tavern. It’s usually a bustling tavern, especially on a Sunday morning when you might have to wait a few minutes. The staff hustles and turns those tables.

Breakfast focuses primarily on American favorites- the eggs, skillet and griddle creations. You can zip that up a bit with some Greek touches. The Gladiator Feast has herby rosemary and oregano chicken breast, scrambled eggs with olive oil, thick chunks of feta cheese and humus. It’s a big breakfast but a welcome change from the usual. The bougatsa fillo custard pastry is sprinkled with powder and pairs well with the frequently refilled coffee.

Athens has a huge menu. There will likely be something there to make you happy and perhaps enough choices to give you fits. The Lamb Souvlaki is tender as promised. It’s marinated in oregano and olive oil. It’s great, but the highlight of the dinner is actually a mistake. We order Tiropita a fillo and cheese vegetarian dish. They bring to the table Kotopita, which is like a Greek chicken pot pie with cheese. I’m already a couple of bites in before the mistake is discovered, so it’s bonus food. It’s a wonderful comfort dish and what all chicken pot pies should aspire to.

They do have a specific vegetarian section to the menu and a wide-range of other veggie friendly choices.

Veggie Eater: Veggie Eater-Folks have been telling us to visit this place literally for years and well, we finally got around to it. First time out we met up with friends for a bustling weekend breakfast. Eggs Florentine were calling to me and I found the eggs perfectly poached and topped with slices of tomatoes, spinach, and feta and a smattering of light, slightly thin hollandaise. The home fries were nice and crispy and crusty. For lunch, we opted to split the Tiropita. Tiropita is supposed to be a Greek cheese pie (feta and a creamier cheese stuffed in phyllo), so I was a bit stumped when something resembling chicken pot pie in phyllo arrived instead. This is a bustling place and it was hard to get our waitress to inform her we had been served the Kotopita instead…I eventually went to the counter and reported the issue to someone there. The waitress came back to apologize for the error and the Meat Eater had already consumed most of the error. The odd question du jour was then posed to us, would we like to pay for our error in addition to the food we had actually ordered? We politely declined the kind offer. The Tiropita did eventually arrive and was worth the wait as it made me nostalgic for Saganaki of yore (perhaps Kasseri cheese was used in addition to the traditional feta). It was a wonderful combination of crispy, flakey, salty, creamy, and chewy. There is a large veggie friendly menu and wanting to sample as much of it as possible, I opted for the plate. The Mousaka is a sort of Greek version of lasagna; layers of broccoli, eggplant and carrots (cooked to the point of a mushy-tender, almost soufflĂ© like consistency) topped with a cheesy bĂ©chamel. The rice pilaf was not very inspiring. Dina’s potatoes consist of chunks of potatoes swimming in a creamy sauce; although the potatoes tasted faintly of rosemary, they could have used a more generous dose of salt and pepper. And finally, there is a little plate of stewed veggies doused in a sprightly tomato sauce-they made a perfect stuffing for the pita serve on the side. I have perhaps idealized the Greek restaurants and foods from my home up North and Athens does not seem to measure up as well, but this is just probably unfair romanticizing. End the end, Athens does help to fill the void from when we moved her eight years ago.

Meat Eater: I don’t know what Veggie Eater was expecting- for Greek diner food this really hit the spot. They keep late hours and have been a go-to spot for late night weekend dining. Did you know Guy Fieri visited them? We won’t hold that against them. Athens is a Nashville staple and we hope that Chef Adel, Dina and Mohammed have many more years of success.

We paid $49 with tax and tip at dinner (we ordered the most expensive stuff) and forgot to find out how much we spent at breakfast.

Athens Family Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Mama Josie’s

Nashville Restaurants and Food
Mama Josie’s
620 Gallatin Pike N.
Madison
615-868-6851
http://www.mamajosies.com/

Mama Josie’s Home Cooking is tough to spot, even if you’ve been there before. It’s well worth making the effort- they’re serving up very good meat and three in Madison. It’s the standard daily line-up of pork chops, meat loaf, chicken wings, beef tips and chicken and dumplings. It’s the execution that sets this place apart- seasoning and flavors are pitch perfect with nearly everything from entrees to veggies.

The dining room is clean, if a bit Spartan. This isn’t the chatty type of soul food place…sure you’ll get a nice welcome, but it’s pretty much about the business of putting food on the plate. And I’m alright with that, especially when the results are this good.

Let’s be clear that this isn’t diet food. A dinner roll drenched in butter is wonderfully decadent. Chicken and stuffing casserole is savory and the ultimate in home-style cooking. The pasta salad is al dente and lightly dressed with carrots, peas and broccoli. The potato salad has thick chunks of potato, onion and celery and a creamy-herby sauce. Each bite hits the mark.

Another visit shows one flaw: a slightly overcooked pork chop. Still, there’s great flavor there. The mac and cheese is nicely seasoned. Red beans are stewed with ground beef. And there are generous portions all around. The sign on the wall says “Cherish life’s simple pleasures” and that’s easy to do at Mama Josie’s.

I paid $10 with tax and tip on one visit and $11 on another.

Mama Josie's Home Cooking on Urbanspoon