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Mar 1, 2012 09:34 PM

New in Petaluma - The Athenian

There has been a rotating series of restos across from Whole Foods on E. Washington St on the corner at Edith St. Semolina was there for years, then a brief stab at a BBQ place, then I notice new paint/sign. Ah Greek food! A block from my house? I'm there.

When I went in and looked at the menu, it was identical to the old Papa's Taverna carte. Down to the Greek iced tea and tzatziki sauce, my heart quickened. I asked the waitress and yes, the old owners of Papa's have blessed the neighborhood. Lana and George greeted me with open arms. It was like coming home. I spent many lunch hours at the old Papa's on the river south of town in the early 90's and here, 20 years on, she's at it again.

The food is good solid greek cooking but the warmth and hospitality are off the charts and something that fine chefs sometimes never master. Greeks, and to some extent other middle easterners seem to have it in their blood.

If you loved the old place's chicken pitas, moist mousaka and soft skordalia. You'll be in heaven. No website and I wouldn't expect to see one. But for now their hours are M-S 11:30 - 9pm, closed Sundays. Phone 707-762-0600. Convenient if you're headed to/from the coast.

Disclosure: I love the living heck out of these people and would lie, cheat, steal, stand in front of a charging minotaur for them. Selah.

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  1. Happy for your homecoming! I was in Whole Foods about two weeks ago and noticed that the BBQ Pit was gone and replaced. Thanks for checking it out.

    Here's the DBA and address from the pending Calif ABC license.
    The Athenian
    600 E Washington St
    Petaluma, CA 94952

    1. Finally ... East Coast Greek diner food ...only better...much better.

      Friday night they make lamb shanks. If there are any shanks leftover, the Saturday special is lamb shank pitas. It was spectacular.

      The soft, pillowy pita held pieces of lamb shank as tender as a mother's love.

      Chow should add a worst writer of the week category to the digest and I nominate the previsous sentence.

      It was wonderful lamb shank though. Everything anyone would want from lamb shank. Nestled in the heavenly pita,it was topped with grilled onions,garbanzos, black olives and chopped tomato. Mentally I was thinking with each bite ... mmmmm .... mmmmm.

      The lady at then next table was actually making that noise each time she bit into her gyro made with homemade marinated beef and spices. It was almost a "When Harry met Sally" moment ... but she wasn't faking it.

      The pita sandwiches can be ordered with one or two sides - salad, fries or soup. I got a cup of the garbanzo soup. Who knew garbanzos could be so tasty? The creamy broth seemed to have a rich chicken stock as the base.

      The Greek tea (1 refill) was nice enough. The main spice though seemed te be cloves ... not my favorite spice. It can be ordered sweetened or unsweetened.

      I ordered the bugatsa for dessert ... OMZ (oh my Zeus).

      I'm not a fan of Greek desserts in general, but wow. When the plate was set on the table there was a lovely aroma of citrus. It is a thick warm custard wrapped in thin phylo lightly brushed with honey. Don't miss this.

      The Saturday night special is lamb kebabs.

      From the outside it doesn't look like much... a redone fast food joint. It is very pretty inside in colors of blue and white. Silk blue wisteria hang from the front counter at the entrance. There is a nice mural of the Acropolis on one wall. The ceiling is painted sky blue with white clouds. Lovely Greek music was playing.

      It is far from fancy, but cheery and pleasant.

      The owners are such wonderful, welcoming people.Lots of vegetarian options here. They hope to have a wine and beer permit by the end of the month.

      If there were indeed food gods, they'd eat here.

      2 Replies
      1. re: rworange

        Loved reading your review and thanks for supporting Lana, George, and The Athenian. I must try the bugatsa.

        1. re: rworange

          Thanks for the writeup, and I'll be trying their food soon. I'll have to say, though, that I was always disappointed in the food at Papa's Taverna on the river, even "way back". I wanted to just like the food because I loved the location, but never found the food more than barely OK. I look forward to a better experience in this new place.

        2. Is The Athenian still open? I tried to call but couldn't find a working phone number.

          1 Reply
          1. re: sundeck sue

            Sue, per Yelp review, they closed in January 2013 and replaced by Mexican place.

            Papa's Greek Taverna closed too.

            As did Aram's downtown.

            And the two different Middle Eastern places in E. Petaluma.

            I think the only Middle Eastern place currently open in Petaluma is Real Doner Turkish...not Greek. Shh!

          2. Any other good (great?) holes in wall in these parts?

            Speaking of which, after realizing that Athenian was a no-go, we ducked over to Sebastopol to Hole-in-the-Wall.

            Had been hoping for Sebastopol's version of Pt. Reyes Station's Pine Cone Diner, a favorite (the oyster salad, my go-to item there). This didn't quite get there.

            Nice folks. Pleasant sitting outside on a nice day, albeit on a not so lovely patio.

            Quite good salads (and nice that the server volunteered that you could get the large salads in a half-size)--my husband liked his Caesar, I my Beat-nik (smile).

            My husband initially found his gumbo too something--he first wondered salt--then pepper--but after a few bites, said it "grew" on him; and he enjoyed it (as did I, the bite I took).

            My Sebastopol Borscht (I was doing beets two ways) was water-y, didn't come together, was under-seasoned. But the main problem was the first (water-y, even w/ the sour cream mixed in). Too bad. In my first restaurant job, decades ago--a hippy spot on the Peninsula, where untrained "kids" like I were in the kitchen, making the daily "special,"I learned to make a version of this dish, called Ukranian Borscht--and I know it can be delicious, with a base of good, rich stock.

            I liked the salads so well and was intrigued enough by duck burgers on the menu (and lamb burgers, which I generally love, but are less unusual) to consider a return visit. If so, what do you like to get there?

            And also happy for other recommendations in Petaluma/Sebastopol that roughly approximate the diner vibe.

            6 Replies
            1. re: sundeck sue

              Lots of recs here for Petaluma and Sebastopol. A search should turn up many.

              1. re: Malcolm Ruthven

                Actually spent a good bit of time on this Board before we headed to Petaluma/Sebastapol/Rohnert Park--found a lot of recs--but, other than Athenian and Hole-in-the-Wall, couldn't find someplace in those towns that was either like an East Coast Greek diner--or (even better, since--can this marriage be saved?!?!--my spouse doesn't share my East Coast diner nostalgia) that tweaked that concept with simple, West Coast loca-vore sensibilities--not meaning to idealize it, but more or less on the order of Pine Cone Diner in Pt. Reyes Station.

                1. re: sundeck sue

                  Not like Pine Cone diner or really a hole in the wall, but nevertheless very good food in a deli-restaurant (never can decide which it is) in Petaluma at Water Street Bistro. The owner is a real chef and the food shows that. It's a place I take visitors to. Great soups, sandwiches, salads, etc etc. I'd recommend lunch rather than breakfast; not much breakfast selection although that could have changed.

                  Official address is 100 Petaluma Blvd N Ste 106, Petaluma. It's set back on Water Street on the Petaluma River.


                  1. re: sundeck sue

                    Hallie's Diner in Petaluma

                    Next door to Sebastopol, Backyard in Forestville

                    Willow wood in Graton

                    Gypsy Cafe in Sebastopol gets mixed reviews, but it's another possibility.

                    1. re: sundeck sue

                      Thanks so much!

                      Will try next time we're in that neck of the woods (which we realized when we were there, we think of as far from Berkeley/Oakland, but is really a hop-skip-jump)--and report back.

                  2. re: sundeck sue

                    I can't say I'd recommend Hole-in-the-Wall for lunch--it really excels at breakfast, though.