25381 Alicia Parkway, Ste. Q
Laguna Hills, CA 92653
For ardent readers of the blog, you will notice that we have been to Athena Gyro before. It was way back in the early days of the blog. Over two years ago we went to the now closed Athena Gyro in Mission Viejo. One of the readers of the blog, Amanda had given us the tip about this hidden gem, located right off of Alicia Parkway. Unfortunately, four months after our review, Athena's was no more.
About a month ago, I got another tip from Amanda that Athena's had opened back up. Still along Alicia Parkway, but now in the city of Laguna Hills. I pass this small shopping center almost everyday on my way to work. This strip mall has been in desperate need of a remodel, and along with a new El Pollo Loco, they are finally getting that remodel.
We visited the new Athena Gyro on a recent Friday night. This small, ten table restaurant had a small trickle of customers the night we were here. At the most they had about three tables, including us at one time. Not exactly bustling, but enough that I think the word is getting out that they are back, and in a new location. The first thing I noticed when getting here was the door. This is the first time I have ever mentioned a restaurants door, but it was not a normal door, it was a sliding glass door. Very unusual for a restaurant, and it was almost comical watching people maneuver it. Not sure if this is going to be a permanent feature, but keep an eye out for it.
We talked to the owner, or someone we believed to be the owner briefly about where they have been. He sold the restaurant up the street to another guy, and that guy started taking shortcuts, and the business suffered and was forced to close. There is another location of Athena's in San Mateo. That restaurant has been in business since 2000, and gets average reviews on Yelp. We were hoping that our experience would be better than average. Let's check it out.
We will start with Maureen's plate first, since it was the first to arrive. She knew what she wanted almost immediately, the Mousaka entree ($11.99). I did not know it before this, but Mousaka is eggplant and potatoes mixed with ground meat, then topped with meat sauce and tzatziki sauce. This sounded delicious to me, but Maureen was less excited by this. She called this, "good, but not the best I have had."
A meal that I was much more familiar with was this Gyro Plate ($9.99). This came with your choice of beef, chicken or lamb gyro meat, and Denis chose the lamb. Denis really liked this plate, and seemed a little reluctant to share any with Maureen. The entrees here are served with a side Greek salad, rice pilaf and pita bread. Not a bad amount of food for under ten dollars.
Katie and I started off our dining adventure at Athena Gyro by having the Humus with Pita ($5.75). This creamy mixture of chickpeas and tahini was seasoned with garlic and lemon. Not a bad plate of humus, but it needed a little pop of flavor for me. Not bad, but average.
So after Maureen and Denis were done with their meals and their plates taken away, we finally received our dinner. Not sure if they only had a limited number of plates or something, but it was one of the most awkwardly served meals we can think of in the time we have been doing the blog. There were other issues going on here as well, but for now lets focus on the food. I selected the Zorba's Combo Mixed Grill ($15.99). This plate had a little sampling of everything. Lamb and chicken cubes, gyro slices, Greek meatballs, and chicken gyro slices with tzatziki sauce on the side. All of the meats were seasoned the same way, but they were all pretty good, and tender. I liked the gyro meat the best, with the Greek meatballs a close second. The chicken was not dry like some places can serve it. Overall, not a bad plate of food. The Greek side salad had fresh produce, but I did not touch much of it.
Katie's Chicken Gyro sandwich Plate ($8.99) may look pretty plain, but she was pretty happy with it. The The salad and rice were just average, but what made her take notice was the gyro. The pita bread was soft and pillowy, the thinly shaved chicken was very tender and had a nice flavor to it. The produce here was fresh, and added a nice crunch to the gyro. I am more of a traditionalist when it comes to gyros, but this one was pretty good.
Time for dessert. They were out of two of their four choices, so we went with the other two, the Baklava (3.50), and the Shekepare ($3.00). The Shekepare was a very forgettable dessert. It was described in the menu as honey syrup and crushed walnuts baked in a flour and semolina mix. It really suffered from lack of flavor. The Baklava was another story though. It was very sweet, but not chalky. I have had a good number of Baklava, and some of them can be very dry, this one wasn't. I'm glad we split this one, because I am not sure I could have eaten this rich dessert by myself.
Welcome back to the neighborhood Athena's. The food was just as we remembered, which was very good. The service on the other hand was kind of crazy. I know this restaurant just recently opened back up, so I am going to give them a pass on not having certain items that are on their menu, the weird way they served two of the meals to our table of four, and then served the other two meals twenty minutes later, and the lack of attention by a waitress that had three tables the whole night. Hopefully these growing pains will be worked out by our next visit. I would sum up Athena Gyro as a good place to quench your Greek cravings. In an area where there is not a lot of Greek places, Athena's can be counted on to do that.
Out of five owls, (because the Greek Goddess Athena is the Goddess of Wisdom, and one of her symbols is the wise old owl), five being best to zero being worst, Athena Gyro gets 3 owls.
For more information about Athena Gyro, check out their web site right here: http://greeklagunahills.wix.com/anthenagryo