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Wednesday, January 29,2014

New In Town

ATHENA´S DINER/ OFILIA´S EL BURRITO

by ALLAN I. ROSS
Athenas Diner opened last week in the former home of Big Jon’s Country Burgers. Owner/operator Anton Prenaj renovated the former location for Jon’s Country Burgers, leaving the eatery’s signature tabletop telephones in place. One new addition: a sign hanging over the service window that reads “The Best Place to Be is Together.”

For 20 years, Prenaj ran the Hannah Coney Island in East Lansing (more info on changes over there next week).

Athenas will feature a full roster of regular diner fare, including a full breakfast menu, as well as a host of Greek specials. The signature dish will be gyros, which will be prepared on a rotisserie.

“We make everything from scratch here,” Prenaj said. “These are time-honored family recipes. We try to make (the Greek dishes) as authentic as possible, but we look to the future for inspiration, not the past.”

The menu also consists of chicken dishes, reuben sandwiches, veggie stir fries and that old beat-the-winter favorite, lemon rice soup. Prenaj said business has been steady since opening last week, which was downplayed on purpose.

“We want to make sure we’ve got everything smoothed out before we start getting too busy,” he said. “The most important thing is making sure the customers are happy.”

New El Burrito location After closing her south Lansing location in late December, restaurateur Ofilia Diaz reopened her business, Ofilia’s El Burrito, inside the Lansing Mega Mall earlier this month. She maintains the Lansing City Market location she opened last year.

Diaz retired from her “day job” in hospital administration last August and has turned her focus to El Burrito full time. She said the Mega Mall is a step up for her.

“My old location had too much overhead,” Diaz said. “This is such a better space. I’m still getting situated, but my kitchen’s all ready and I’ve already had some busy days.”

Diaz has hired one employee, but said she may hire more if business continues to pick up. Her menu consists of burritos, breakfast burritos, menudo, tacos and enchiladas; last weekend she also added two different kinds of soups. She cooks most of the food at the Mega Mall kitchen, but does some prep work at Lansing City Market.

“I came here because I had no place else to go, but I want to continue to expand,” she said. “In the summertime, I do farmers markets where I sell my tamales and wet burritos, but I would eventually like to open a nice little (brick-and-mortar) restaurant again someday.”

Anselmo moves … but where?

In 2010, Ric Anselmo moved his business, Anselmo Gallery, from East Lansing into the Meridian Mall after the mall gave him a sweetheart deal to fill empty shop space. Last year that deal expired and he moved into a smaller location in the mall, but this week he’s leaving for parts unknown.

Anselmo wasn’t available for comment, but a woman answering the phone confirmed that the gallery had to vacate the space by Jan. 31. She said a move to a new location is being considered, but the art will be placed into a warehouse location for now.

For nearly three years, Anselmo Gallery was situated next to Craig Mitchell Smith Glass, which recently moved to Old Town.

Athenas Diner 3109 S. Cedar St., Lansing 7 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Saturday; 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday (517) 394-0072

Ofilia’s El Burrito (Lansing Mega Mall location) 15487 Old US 27, Lansing (517) 272-1665 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday (Lansing City Market location) 325 City Market Drive, Lansing 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday-Friday; 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday (517) 894-3904

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