Welcome to Greece!
Well, it's about as close to Greece that one can get without a passport. Athena ( 212 S. Halsted St.; AthenaRestaurantChicago.com ) promises an authentic Greekand has still managed to provide it for two decades. ( Interestingly, there's nothing planned to mark the spot's 20th anniversarya milestone that might have more than one restaurant offering all types of specials. )
One of the items that helps contribute to the air of authenicity is an outdoor area with a retractable roof ( making Athena a "convertible Greek restaurant," according to manager Jimmy ); coupled with tables topped with blue-and-white umbrellas and even a waterfall, I felt like I was relaxing on a Greek isle.
Of course, the cuisine helped contribute to the Greek experience as well. ( By the way, the next time you're there, take a look at the forks; although they have four tines each, they're shaped like Greek tridents. )
With seafood served in abundance in the actual Greece, it shouldn't be surprising that it's a staple of Athena's menu as well. The octopus appetizer ( marinated in olive oil and vinegar with chopped carrot and celery ) was pretty tasty, while the seafood kabob ( salmon, swordfish and shrimp broiled on a skewer with tomatos, onions and green peppers ) was cooked pretty solidly, although my dining companion had wished the salmon had looked a little more done.
However, Athena offers moremuch more. The char-broiled Greek pork sausage, or loukaniko, was one of my favorite dishesbut it was topped by the Athenian chicken, one of the restaurant's most popular dishes. The chicken, also char-broiled, comes with lemon and oregano; it really is a heavenly dish. Of course, no Greek meal is complete without saganaki, the goat-cheese dish that's breaded in flour and usually served flaming in brandy. ( We got the tasty cheese, but no flame is allowed outside, as there was apparently an incident some years ago. )
So even if you can't afford to go to Greece ( in terms of finances or time ), visit Athena. The spot is a vacation in itself.
Note: Restaurant/bar profiles are based on invitations arranged from restaurants and/or firms.