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Cheap eats

We arrived at Athens on the early side of Saturday dinnertime and were surprised to see so many cars in the parking lot.

"These people must know something," I thought.

Indeed, they did. As we were shown to a table in a long, narrow dining room separated from the larger room by low partitions, we scoped out the food on the plates of the people we passed -- and it looked good.

The guys ordered dinners -- John the meatloaf and Dan the liver with bacon and onions, each for $6.99. Their first course was soup, and it was served in unexpectedly large bowls with rims -- the kind sometimes used to hold a pasta entree. Both Dan's chicken noodle and John's beef barley were good, with tasty broth and tender, flavorful meat and plenty of chopped vegetables.

I liked the fact that the pierogi on the menu had a choice of fillings, including sauerkraut, so I ordered a plate of the potato and cheddar ones ($6.99). They were nicely browned and plump with creamy, cheesy filling, although they were a bit greasy. Shared, they made a nice start.

Ruth's fish fry ($7.99) was piled high on the plate -- it really needed a platter to accommodate all of it. A good-sized piece of haddock was balanced atop a pile of fries, with scoops of coleslaw, potato salad and macaroni salad, as well as a soft dinner roll. With fresh, firm fish enrobed in crisp batter, it was probably the best fish fry we've ever seen at that price.

My Greek chicken sandwich ($4.99) was also excellent, with a tender, juicy breast filet, topped with onion, lettuce and flavorful feta on a soft roll. A slice of spinach pie ($3.99) was more like a slab, with flaky crust enclosing a thick layer of creamy chopped spinach.

Dan's thin-sliced liver was tender, without any stringy or chewy bits, and topped with both bacon and onions. He said it was delicious. John's meat loaf was cut in three thin slices that together added up to a nice-sized serving. He enjoyed both the taste and the texture. Both dinners included smooth whipped potatoes, which were fine, and an above-average bright vegetable medley. "You can see why they get a lot of people," Dan said.

We felt compelled to try the rice pudding. Served in a tall parfait glass with a crown of whipped cream, it looked exquisite and was delicious, although a bit soupier than we would have liked.

-- Anne Neville


Athens Family Restaurant

2801 Harlem Road, Cheektowaga


Review: 3 1/2 pennies (Out of 4)

"A crowd-pleaser."

Athens is open daily from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. It is handicapped-accessible.

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