I remember thinking that life was busy before I had kids. Working all day....having to spend weekends cleaning the entire apartment and doing all that laundry! (Two loads a week seemed like a lot back then, after all.) We considered going out to dinner to be a reward for a week of work, a treat after a Saturday of running errands and cleaning.
Of course we had no idea what busy was back then. Now that we are raising four children, life is a blur of chores, errands, endless driving to and fro--it never ends. There are many ways to rejuvenate your mind and spirit to the great job of parenting, and one of my favorites is going out alone with my husband.
Our eldest daughter is a reliable and responsible babysitter, so we are lucky to be able to plan a date without much notice. One of our favorite dates is dinner out together. There is a lot to be said for time to talk without interruption, enjoying delicious food that you didn't have to plan or prepare and won't have to clean up after, and since meals out are not as common as they used to be, it's a real treat.
Downtown Riverhead has many great little restaurants to offer, and one of our very favorites is Athens Gyro and Grill. We used to enjoy it as a casual family Greek diner, but now that it is under new management, it has an elegant, upscale feel and the food is sublime. The dining room is intimate, with linen tablecloths, candles and a fireplace, and the music is soft enough to be able to carry on a conversation. The service is excellent; we have always had pleasant and attentive staff who readily explain ingredients and suggest options if you like.
I love that there are local wines on the wine list, though if you prefer you can also order wine from Greece, France or Italy. Chef John Mantzopoulos uses ingredients that are always fresh, local and seasonal; the shrimp are not farm raised (and thus bland and riddled with antibiotics) but wild caught, and the fish on the menu is the catch of the day.
I have always been pleased with what I've ordered; one of my very favorite choices is tiny loin lamb chops grilled to perfection with olive oil and Greek spices. We've never gone wrong with mousaka or spanakopita, and we love to share a plate of baklava served with Greek yogurt and dark cherries soaked in rum along with Greek coffee.
We never feel rushed and can talk as long as we care to linger, which sometimes causes the kids to call and make sure we're still alive, but also makes for a lovely dinner experience. If the weather is agreeable, we like to take a walk by the river or through the downtown neighborhoods to talk more and feel like we didn't just eat our weight in delicious food.
An evening at Athens Gyro and Grill, talking together and enjoying food, wine and quiet ambience renews our relationship and is a great escape from family life.