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Athens Burger Restaurant, Dublin CA

When we opened the door to Athens Burger Restaurant on 6999 Dublin Blvd, the delicious smell of char overcame us.  Visually, it was impressive to watch the tables and booths fill up quickly.  Based on the messages received from those two senses alone, we knew that a third, taste, would be on par.  Happy crowds don’t lie.

housemade onion rings, zucchini sticks, and ranch

housemade onion rings, zucchini sticks, and ranch

Many of the menu items are made in house, such as the onion rings and zucchini sticks.  The onions used were super quality and cooked to the perfect point of doneness, so the breading was crunchy and the sweet onions remained slightly crisp.  It’s always a plus to be able to bite through an onion ring without pulling the onion out of the breading.  The zucchini sticks had a different breading than the onion rings with more of a bread crumb base.  Lightly breaded, the sweet tender centers contrasted the texture of the crunchy exterior.  Both the onion rings and the zucchini sticks were yummy, but the ranch dip really complemented them.  Housemade as well, like most of the condiments, the ranch was thick and creamy with a bright array of herb flavors, dill being the star.

chili cheese fries

chili cheese fries

Daily sandwich specials come with a choice of soup, salad, or fries, but Zach wanted to try the chili cheese fries so he upgraded his side.  While the fries were prepared from a frozen state, they were not poor quality.  The main attraction, though, passed picky Zach’s chili test because it was housemade and tasty.  No beans meant more need for meat, so the chili was very thick and hearty.  Medium spices with flavors of cumin and chili powder were balanced well, and tons of cheddar cheese made it gooey and sumptuous.

chipotle burger, doubled

chipotle burger, doubled

Zach’s daily sandwich special was the chipotle burger with cheese, bacon, and chipotle sauce.  He doubled the patty and also swapped out the regular bun with seeds for a “junior bun,” so we can attest to Athens Burger’s customer accommodation.  The bacon was crisp and smoky, and the chipotle was more tangy than spicy – don’t be afraid of this burger if heat isn’t your thing, because the chipotle taste is there without the burn.  Loads of fresh, crispy vegetables complete each mouthful.

greek burger

greek burger

August ordered a signature burger, The Greek.  This had the same fresh, crispy veggies as Zach’s burger, but with its own cheese and sauce for distinction.  To give this a Greek twist, feta cheese and a housemade Greek dressing were added.  The feta had its oh-so-familiar flavor but was mild enough not to overpower the burger.  The dressing was tangy and rich with olives and a nice vinegar.  It was flavorful but, like the feta, not so much so that the delicious char of the meat was buried.

For dependable quality that entertains multiple senses, Athens Burger ranks high.  The concept of a burger is simple, but execution is key.  The crew at Athens Burger recognizes that, and the pride is apparent in every bite.

The Mediterranean, Concord CA

We couldn’t decide what to do for dinner tonight, so we flipped a coin and The Mediterranean in the Concord Park-And-Shop won.  Besides having a great dinner, we also met the gracious owner and learned about her restaurants (we didn’t realize there is another location in Walnut Creek, and there used to be one in Berkeley).

house-made hummus

pita and house-made hummus

This hummus was great, made from fresh ingredients prepared in house.  It was very creamy in texture, and tangy with mild garlic.  Even though Zach could make it himself, it’s something we would get in a pinch, say, if August had to provide snacks for an afterschool meeting.  Of course it was great for scooping with the pita bread, and we imagine it would be a good spread on a sandwich, too.

tabbouleh and mujaddara

tabbouleh and mujaddara

Nearly 2/3 of the menu is vegan, including all the fresh salads.  The tabbouleh was strongly green and very refreshing with parsley, tomato, green onion, cucumber, bulgur wheat, and lemon oil dressing.  The mujaddara, totally new to both of us, was a lentil salad with rice, golden fried onion, tomato and cucumber.  This was much more savory and earthy; as August put it, what tabbouleh is to summer, mujaddara is to autumn.  August really enjoyed the lemon and bulgur wheat elements of the tabbouleh, and Zach particularly liked the mujaddara, especially for the onions and lentils.

dolmas

dolmas

Either she’s getting good at identifying flavors, or the house-made dolmas were that simple yet tasty.  “Lemon, olive oil, rice, grape leafs, and some spices,” said August.  When the ingredients are that easy to identify, you know they are quality.

falafel deluxe

falafel deluxe

Keeping with the vegan theme, we got the falafel deluxe.  Falafel, eggplant, potato, cucumber salad, seasoned onion, parsley, and tahini sauce arrived wrapped in lavash bread (both vegan and Passover-friendly).  August was happy that the falafel wasn’t overspiced, yet you could hardly call it mild.  The sesame, chickpeas, and curry blend gave it a very rich meaty texture, kind of like liver or pate.  The grilled eggplant added a velvety ribbon through the wrap.

lamb shawerma

lamb shawerma

Now, for some meat!  August is forever loyal to lamb; as long as it’s treated well and not mislabeled as mutton, she’ll eat it.  Zach is the picky one, and this passed the test.  Some people might be fooled into thinking the lamb is grass-fed beef, because it had a very mild flavor.  The way the shawerma was wrapped, we were left with meat on one side and vegetables on the other, which was great for switching between bites of the spiced lamb and the cooling tomatoes, parsley, and onions with tahini sauce.

one burma, two baklavas, and three turkish delights

one burma, two baklavas, and three turkish delights

The traditional desserts are delicious and two of them are vegan – even the baklava that the owner makes herself with oil instead of butter.  August has had baklava before that was sopping wet with honey, and she’s also had it so dry that it stuck to her teeth on the first chew.  This, though, had the texture like a perfect Butterfinger.  It was flaky but not crumbly, and crunchy yet still with some pull to it.  The Turkish Delights, the other vegan treat, were like nuggets of floral, flourless, gummy fruitcake.  With plentiful nuts and bergamot orange-flavored jelly, these were dense and flavorful bites.  The burma had a pistachio filling and the shredded filo dough shell was halfway between a cookie and a pastry, but all the way tasty.

Freshness, quality, and economics combine for a great meal to satisfy your taste buds, stomach, and wallet.  If you can find a spot for your car (because it’s tough a lot of the time), it’s worth the frustration of the inadequate parking lot to come to The Mediterranean.

Cloverdale Citrus Festival 2013

Alright, to be perfectly honest, we didn’t pay much attention to the citrus-based parts of the Cloverdale Citrus Festival.  There were orange juice squeezing competitions and cooking demonstrations, but we were overwhelmed by the variety of different festival foods.  Of course there were funnel cakes and corn dogs, but we sought – and found – lots of offbeat food items to share with you.

chicken sandwich in a glazed donut

chicken sandwich in a glazed donut

First stop was Stuffie’s Char-Broiler for a chicken breast sandwich served in a raspberry filled donut.  That’s what the menu said; however, it was more of a raspberry sauce drizzle than a filled donut.  We can thank Paula Dean for the concept of a donut as a bun, since Stuffie’s also offered a hamburger on a “Crispy Creme” (again, as per the menu) and both the hamburger and the chicken sandwich seemed like popular items.  The chicken was your typical grilled chicken, and the total concept is great.  The fresh tomato and lettuce added to the enjoyment of this entree/dessert fusion.

indian taco

indian taco

Bandon’s Best Kettle Korn is known for its namesake, plus a hoard of other sweet fair foods.  At certain events, they told us, they also do entrees, like this Indian taco of fry bread piled with refried beans, seasoned ground beef, lettuce, cheese, tomato, sour cream, salsa, jalapeños, and onions (we asked for ours without onions just as a matter of preference).  They didn’t overwork the scratch-made fry bread dough, which made it tender and crispy.  Fresh vegetables, well seasoned beef, and scratch-made refried beans combined to make for a stellar plate.

making mini donuts

making mini donuts

Watching the Castle Mini Donuts’ mini donut maker was mesmerizing.  They were so tiny and cute, and we got to try a sample before our sundae was done.

mini donut sundae

mini donut sundae

…And here’s Castle Mini Donuts’ mini donut sundae.  You can get it with chocolate syrup or caramel sauce, but you can see we requested both, and boy, was it good!  The donuts were amazing because they were so fresh, moist, slightly crispy, and lightly dusted in cinnamon and sugar.  Zach says these were the best cake donuts he’s ever had since he’s never tried them fresh before, and fresh makes a huge difference.  There were other mini donut related items like a smaller sundae and donuts on their own, but we recommend going all out.

sheftalia gyro

sheftalia gyro

Sheftalia, we learned, is essentially sausage without skin made of pork and/or lamb.  We tried pork and lamb in a gyro from Ultimate Souvlaki.  Served like traditional style with tzatziki sauce, tomato, and onions, the sheftalia was the strong flavor of the gyro, as it should have been.  The meat is hand mixed and formed with herbs and spices, then wrapped in caul fat.  Caul fat was listed on the menu but we didn’t know what it was – probably a good thing or else we might have been a little scared!  Now we know since we do our research for writing our blog, and we’re proud to add it to the list of interesting foods we’ve tried.

loaded jalapeños

loaded jalapeños

Jalapeño poppers are one of Zach’s favorite fried food items, and Full of Flavor Catering delighted us.  These loaded jalapeños were definitely loaded: cream cheese, sharp cheddar cheese, and bacon!  The crust was lightly seasoned and the ranch dressing was home-made, not from a bottle.  They were cooked perfectly, just like poppers should be – crispy outside, tender jalapeño inside that doesn’t slide out in one bite, the filling was creamy and cheesy, and no single component overpowered another.

mocha freeze

mocha freeze

August was getting thirsty but also wanted some caffeine for our drive home, so we tried Java 2 You’s “famous mocha freeze,” a “delicious blended mocha prepared with rich chocolate and creamy soft serve ice cream.”  The soft serve put this over the top, making the drink so smooth and decadent.  Zach noted that they used real coffee in the mix, adding a naturally acidic kick.

gourmet cupcakes

gourmet cupcakes

We walked by Starting From Scratch‘s stand when we entered the event and promised ourselves we would get some cupcakes on the way out.  Our timing couldn’t have been more perfect, as they were starting to run out by the time we came back!  We wish we lived in their radius around Windsor since they deliver, and they have a lot more than the cupcakes we saw today at the festival.  We picked out six to take home, ranging from champagne to Irish car bomb, chocolate peanut butter cup and their famous apple walnut caramel.

Our overall thoughts on the festival itself were that there weren’t enough citrus-related things to call it a Citrus Fair.  It would have been nice if, say, for every five regular food items the sixth would be citrus-based, -infused, or -inspired.  However, it’s one of the first fairs of the year and we had beautiful weather, so clearly everyone came out to enjoy the day.  The crowds of people made it difficult to walk around at times, but who could fault them?  We all wanted to try some amazing food today.