Athenian Room is Lincoln Park’s best kept secret. Loved by students, young professionals and families alike, it’s one of those places you’ll find yourself becoming a “regular” without even trying. Perhaps it’s the amazingly perfect vinegary Greek Fries, or the mouthwatering scent cast by the kitchen and rotisseries, or the cute old ladies who lunch that create the most welcoming and enjoyable dining experience, either way, Athenian Room has had a great reputation since 1972 and has the delicious food to back it up.
It’s safe to say you may approach your lunch or dinner at Athenian Room with the following expectations: 1.) To have a casual, affordable, and quality meal. 2.) To be among many people waiting in line for a table or picking up take-out, and 3.) To get a real feel for the residents of LincolnPark. This is not somewhere you’d go to impress a tourist friend with innovative restaurant interior design, or award winning chefs and amazing service, or an impressive and beautiful twenty course meal; it’s a place to go with your family, a close group of friends, or a significant other to enjoy a cozy, Greek-American meal in the comfort and ease of the trendy intersection of Halsted and Webster.
After having dined here a number of times and gotten take-out more often than I’d like to admit, I will say that there is nothing on the menu I have not yet enjoyed. You can’t go wrong with a small Greek Salad to start, it’s low on dressing and heavy on feta. As for your main course, I’d recommend the Chicken Kalamata, or as my friend Michael calls it, “The Magic Chicken.” It’s literally half a chicken doused in this incredible, light, lemony, but not too tangy, sauce. It’s crispy on the outside and moist and tender on the inside. As with most dinner entrees, it’s served with the aforementioned famous Greek Fries. The Chicken Kabob is for the the light eater in your life. Just as delicious as the Chicken Kalamata, but won’t make you feel like you just ate, well half a chicken. It has mildly spicy chicken pieces separated by thinly cut bits of onion and pepper and is served with tomatoes and onions on the side. A go-to of mine is the Charburger with Feta. Order this when you simply want a unique, tasty burger – nothing complicated, just good meat and fresh feta cheese. If you’re not a fan of feta you can also get the Charburger with American cheese. When you’re really in the mood for hearty meat, go with the Skirt Steak. It’s a life changing experience. Then there’s the Gyro: fresh pita, tomatoes, onions, and an endless amount of tasty spiced lamb with a side of tzakziki sauce. This isn’t the greasy New York style gyro that makes you feel heavy and lethargic after eating it, it’s rich in taste, but fresh and guilt-free. It may be difficult for some to finish the entirety of this meal, I usually share the with a friend and ask for an extra pita at a small cost.
Athenian Room is a great place to go if you’re not a vegetarian or a vegan. They offer no substitutions which is good to know beforehand, so you’re not unintentionally “that guy/girl” having an awkward time ordering. There are also no refills which may come as a disappointment to some, but if you chose to make it not a big deal, then great! When it’s warm out you can enjoy their outdoor seating which gives you an even better taste of summer in Lincoln Park. Overall, Athenian Room is an effortless and reliable dining experience that takes a little warming up to. Some may be turned off by its old-fashioned management, but as my friend Michael would say – the chicken is magic.
Photo Credit: Araceli R. on Yelp!