Grub Scout: Angela’s in Athens boasts eclectic, enticing ethnic entrees

Angela's Cafe

  • Food: ****
  • Service: ****
  • Atmosphere: ***1⁄2
  • Overall: ****
  • Address: 217 E. Washington Ave., Athens
  • Phone: 423-507-8228
  • Hours: 11:30 a.m.-6 p.m. Mondays-Wednesdays; 11:30 a.m.-8 p.m. Thursdays; 11:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Fridays
  • Seating: Reservations accepted

A reader suggestion recently sent me to the geographic fringes of my dining circle, to Athens (Tennessee), home of Angela’s Café. I had actually received more than one positive comment about the restaurant’s lunch offerings, but The Grub Spouse and I decided to check out the dinner menu on one of our visits south.

Co-owners Angela and Eddy Fernandez serve up an eclectic menu that focuses primarily on Cuban and Italian dishes but also includes some Greek-style items, which I guess is appropriate, considering that the restaurant is in the heart of Athens.

Lunch patrons serve themselves buffet style, and the menu varies daily. One recent noontime lineup represented all three nationalities thanks to meat lasagna, eggplant Parmesan, sautéed vegetables, roast pork, white rice, black beans, Greek chicken, pasta and Italian wedding soup.

Those arriving for dinner choose from a two-page menu that features most of these same items in addition to several others from each ethnic category. Other dishes include Cuban steak and a surf-and-turf option, neither of which was available that night, interestingly enough.

There are no appetizers on the menu, but shortly after being seated we were served a basket of delicious, buttery Italian-style toast to tide us over until our meals were served.

Neither of us was in the mood for Italian that night, not nearly as much as we were for Cuban and Greek dishes. Angela’s extols itself as “the home of the Cuban sandwich” (although I thought Cuba was actually the home of the Cuban sandwich), so I felt compelled to give it a try. Even though it’s not listed on the dinner menu, this item is available any time.

The Spouse did the Greek thing by ordering the Greek shrimp — jumbo shrimp prepared with a feta-spinach stuffing. The Greek chicken, which is similarly embellished, came in as a close runner-up.

Angela’s occasionally hosts live entertainment events like jazz music and poetry readings. On the night we were there, there was nothing on the schedule, although we happened to be seated near a young couple on what evidently was a first date. Most of their too-loud, beer-fueled conversation revolved around their respective drinking exploits, so we weren’t bored.

The menu cautions that because everything at Angela’s is made from scratch, patrons should expect a wait of approximately 30 minutes for their meals to arrive. I appreciated the heads-up, but I don’t think we waited more than 15 minutes for what turned out to be a wonderful dinner.

The Cuban is almost two meals’ worth of sandwich, loaded with tasty pork and thinly sliced ham. The melted cheese and pressed bread topped off what was one of the best Cuban sandwiches I’ve had. The Spouse’s dinner was an elegant presentation, starring seven stuffed shrimp accompanied by a sautéed vegetable medley and white rice. It was all delish.

We ended by sharing a piece of homemade tres leches cake (they also had homemade tiramisu), which was ultrasweet and moist, all without being unpleasantly heavy.

Our meal totaled around $28, although for that and the price of gas to Athens and back, we felt the experience was worth it. You may not want to drive an hour or more to check out Angela’s, but if you’re down that way, definitely give it a try.

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