Though new restaurants featuring local, handmade cuisine are popping up in Chattanooga like mushrooms after a rain, the Acropolis Four Stars Grill was years ahead of the trend.
From its opening in 1995 on Hamilton Place Boulevard, the Acropolis has built its reputation on fresh ingredients, expert preparation and pride that everything put on the tables, from bread and soup to salad dressings and its luscious desserts, is crafted by hand in its own kitchen.
Though the second generation of owners Teddy and Betty Kyriakidis' family is carrying on the business -- son Savas Kyriakidis runs Niko's on the Southside downtown -- the Acropolis is an old reliable where patrons can count on tasty food, attentive service and reasonable prices.
It's hard to pick out one dish or even a single style of cooking from the Acropolis' extensive menu -- fish and shrimp, beef, pork and lamb, pasta and vegetables are all on the menu.
Starters range from $3.25 for cheese- or meat-stuffed pastries (spanakopita and tyropita) to flamed cheese (saganaki, $6.25) and fried calamari, $7.25. Try the Greek-style green salad (with Kalamata olives, feta cheese and a pungent, garlicky dressing) for $1.50 extra.
Sandwich offerings include burgers ($6.95-$7.50), gyros and souvlaki, marinated pork tenders sautéed with onions and served on pita bread ($6.95). Souvlaki also comes as an entrée.
Entrees run from $9.95 for vegetable kebabs to $22.95 for French-cut rack of lamb. Just a sample of what's in between includes shrimp marina, chicken with artichokes, moussaka (eggplant, beef and potatoes in bechamel sauce, $8.95), chicken parmigiana and three-cheese ravioli with spinach in a smoked gouda alfredo ($10.95) The surf and turf features aged prime filet mignon and 6-ounce lobster tail ($26.95), and a fried fisherman's platter includes lobster, shrimp and a crab cake for $25.95.
Since my last visit, the Acropolis has introduced the Waist Watcher menu for those counting calories. The menu lists the Weight Watchers points for each item.
Meals come with salad or soup and a side -- Greek-style green beans, okra, tomatoes and roasted potatoes among the choices.
And then there are those desserts. Fortunately for my diet, I rarely have room for one of the massive slices of cake or the sweet baklava. But I have been known to stop by just for dessert and some of the Acropolis' Greek coffee.
The order (for one): Shrimp and grits with vegetable medley and Greek salad.
My friendly and helpful server brought out water (no ice, no lemon, just as I asked for; it's surprising how often servers don't hear that request) and bread. The basket held thick slices of two kinds, dark brown and white, with a cup of honey-cinnamon butter. The spread complemented the slightly sweet taste of the bread and helped ease the slices' slight dryness.
The shrimp and grits was a little different than the traditional Low Country recipe. Though made with smoked bacon and fresh mushrooms, it had chives and fresh-grated parmesan cheese rather than the traditional cheddar. The nine shrimp were sweet and tender and the grits cooked to just the right consistency. The vegetable medley was mostly yellow and zucchini squash cooked with tomatoes and flavored with fresh basil. The veggies were tender but not mushy, but they came in big chunks that I had to cut up before I could -- without looking uncouth -- take a bite.
Where: Acropolis Four Stars Grill, 2213 Hamilton Place Blvd.
Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Price range: $3.25-$26.95.
Alcohol: Full bar, wine list.
My server paid close attention to the table and to the progress of my meal even as he kept up with some other tables. He sounded familiar with the kitchen when I asked him about the preparation of the dishes and what seasonings were used, and he made a point of saying everything in the kitchen is prepared on-site. He was good about keeping my water glass filled and empty plates and utensils cleared, and he was prompt with the check when I asked.
The single dining room beyond a foyer (where trays of pastries beckon from glass cases) is a single room with wood-paneled walls and a small bar along one wall. Half-walls with corner columns and urns of flowers help define the space. Booths are roomy, and tables -- covered in black cloths -- are set far enough apart that it doesn't feel crowded. Other than small screens at the corners of the bar, the room is mercifully TV-free.
Acropolis hasn't changed significantly since it opened in 1995, and it's showing its age a little. The covered patio outdoors is under renovation, so perhaps the interior also will get some freshening-up soon.
It's not trendy or flashy. You're likely to see more sedans and SUVs than plug-ins or Priuses. But that's OK. The Acropolis keeps its focus on delicious food and good service. And that keeps its customers coming back, year after year.