Downtown DC has the Greek Deli on 19th Street; Gaithersburg’s got the Athens Grill. Both are owned by Greeks who cook with passion, and both are neighborhood gems. But while the Greek Deli is well known to DC’s lunchtime warriors, the Athens Grill has existed in relative obscurity for 17 years.
Owned by Alexandra and Dimitrios Angelakis and their daughters, Evie and Anna Maria, the Athens Grill turns out Greek classics that taste of home—not surprising, as Alexandra is the one at the stove. Her silky tzatziki and wonderfully textured taramasalata are enhanced by grilled pita triangles slicked with olive oil. The Big Fat Gyro gets extra kick from French fries tucked into the sandwich. Wood-grilled kebabs of chicken, pork, and lamb have more sizzle than most, rotisserie chicken is moist and succulent, and specials like moussaka and orzo with lamb stew evoke lusty taverna fare. There are even hard-to-find regional dishes like meatballs made with vegetables, a specialty from the Cyclades islands.
Dessert follows suit with comforting bowls of rice pudding and one of the better baklavas around, a crisp nut-filled diamond drizzled with honey syrup. To take home with the leftovers, there’s Athens Grill Gourmet Dressing, Marinade, and Dip ($12 a bottle). Maybe it’s the secret to that terrific bird.