A palace for Bowling Green: Downtown restaurant delivers authentic Greek cuisine

Anna’s Greek Restaurant opened in January 2020 after years of renovations in their location, what once was Victory Baptist Church, on the corner of State Street and E 12th Street. The new location preserved the entire outside of the church building, which has been standing for over a century.

Liza Rash

There aren’t many palaces in Bowling Green, but a newly reopened restaurant located at 1202 State St. gives off royal vibes.

Decorated to the nines with massive baby blue velour curtains, stained-glass windows, flashy chandeliers and heliotrope lighting, Anna’s Greek Restaurant could be considered among Bowling Green’s finest restaurant locations thanks to its venue: a newly renovated Catholic church.

Anna’s re-opened on Dec. 11, 2019, and business is already booming. It was originally established as a junior food store then converted to a restaurant. That restaurant opened in 2007 on Three Springs Road in Bowling Green, and relocated to Glasgow in 2014. Now, Anna’s is back in a much grander way than ever before.

Co-owner and operator Vilson Qehaja said this new and improved location has been nothing but extremely beneficial for business.

“All the positive feedback I’ve gotten is almost unbearable and overwhelming,” Qehaja said. “Some nights, I can’t really work because I’m just listening to people admire the place.”

He also gushed over the beauty of the freshly renovated church. Three large stained-glass windows illuminate the bar located on the first floor of the restaurant, and he adores them.

But the church was not always this breath-taking. It took four and a half years to renovate the building before Qehaja was pleased enough with its appearance to open its doors to the public.

Qehaja said the opportunity to take over such a unique venue was just too good to pass up. He decided to have it designed and renovated to accommodate large events like weddings and banquets.

Qehaja said he was not in the market to buy the church.

“I guess God wanted me to have it,” Qehaja said. “It just happened. I just liked the building. It had a lot of artistic elements that connect with Greece and the time period we’re going for. It was awarded to me at an auction, and I tried to do it justice with the restoration.”

The wait staff at Anna’s is equally enthusiastic about their new location.

“The quality of the food has never changed,” server and bartender Chandra Serrano said. “I guess, more than anything, the biggest difference now is the magnitude of people we get compared to our location in Glasgow.”

Serrano said her guests have endlessly expressed their admiration for the restaurant.

“Everybody says the same thing: ‘It’s absolutely amazing. It’s beautiful,’” Serrano said. “It blows your mind when you come in! It’s the total package.”

Anna’s accommodated 380 people nightly last weekend, proving not only its popularity but also how large the restaurant really is.

Serrano added that it definitely gets busy, but it all seems to run smoothly. Since it was renovated for the purpose of hosting weddings and other large events, it has high ceilings, expansive seating space and two floors for dining. It doubles as an event venue called The Century Palace.

Event coordinator Gia Flaherty raved about the beauty of the weddings he gets to oversee at Anna’s. The first wedding will be in April, and there are many more to come this year.

“All of last year, while we were under construction, I was attending wedding expos and giving hard hat tours in an unfinished facility,” said Flaherty. “Century Palace opened New Year’s Day 2020 with 18 weddings already booked.”

Flaherty added people just love the history of the building.

“They love the beauty of it. The windows, everything. It is a niche, though,” Flaherty said. “Seven out of every 10 brides in Southern Kentucky want a barn — they want an outdoor wedding. To book here, you’ve got to want a palace, a fairytale.”

To those who work and dine at Anna’s, it’s not just the fairytale-like decorations that make the restaurant stand out. The building’s rich history alone is enough to leave patrons with a desire to keep coming back and enjoying its authentic ambience.

Features reporter Liza Rash can be reached at [email protected] Follow Liza on social media at @l1za_.