John Pappas didn’t know much English when he first arrived on American soil, but he did know the secrets of cooking excellent Greek cuisine. The native Greek passed on his recipes and expert techniques to his son Nicholas, who would go on to open his own Mediterranean restaurant—Greek City Cafe.
Deep in his restaurant’s kitchen, Nicholas and his chefs fold juicy meats and fresh vegetables into a variety of Greek-inspired paninis, wraps, and salads. They layer pitas with juicy slices of shaved lamb and beef before adding dollops of flavorful tzatziki and creamy greek dressing. To craft specialty pizzas, the chefs shower soft pita shells in mixed cheeses, diced tomatoes, and grilled chicken. When discussing these dishes with a reporter from Westchase Patch, Nicholas explained, “We take a mainstream item and put a Greek twist to it. I make them feel comfortable, but when they taste it they realize they've never experienced that flavor.”
In the casual dining room, where sunlight streams onto soft blue and green walls, guests can linger over their last bites of these inventive eats before ordering desserts such as baklava. Countertop seating surrounds a lush olive tree in the center of the room, which was imported from Greece and lives off of sunlight and Greek wine.
During World War I, Greek immigrant Louis Pappas served in the Army as a personal chef to General John Pershing. To give the hungry general some extra nutrition, Louis began adding scoops of potato salad to his traditional greek salads. When Louis returned to the United States, he opened up his own restaurant, Louis Pappas Riverside Caf?, where he would re-create this signature dish using fresh produce from his own ranch in Tarpon Springs.
Today, Louis Pappas's grandson continues his grandfather's old Florida family tradition at Louis Pappas Fresh Greek (formerly Louis Pappas Market Caf?). There, he and his kitchen serve up a new menu of healthy dishes prepared with local produce and all-natural meats. They continue to scoop savory housemade potato salad into their internationally renowned Louis Pappas Famous greek salad, tossing it in massive bowls that serve as many as four diners.
Two majestic pillars stand guard at the entrance of GreekTown Grille, a large building painted in red with accents of soft blue and yellow, much like how ancient Greek temples are said to have been decorated. Inside, the Karamountzos family cooks a menu of Greek food that caught effusive praise in the Tampa Bay Times. Their signature octapodi skaras fans out grilled, seasoned tentacles on the plate under a drizzle of olive oil and lemon, prepping diners for grilled chicken wrapped with tzatziki in warm pita and dishes of arni youvetsi—slow-braised lamb shank in tomato sauce. Under the high ceilings of the dining room and out on the patio, the national color of Greece infuses blue mosaic work and comfortable booths serve as secret portals to Mount Olympus.
Green Organix Restaurant, an extension of Peter Gillham’s Nutrition Center, culls from organic ingredients to make up dishes that reflect many cultures and styles, including vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options. The restaurant stocks house-baked breads along with 100% organic, free-range, and grass-fed burgers. A recent addition to the menu, the organic salad bar shows off 20 different fixings and local ingredients, along with made-from-scratch salad dressings and freshly plucked salad bowls.
Hot Ticket Pub & Venue's cadre of chefs conjures hearty plates of pub fare in a cozy sports-bar setting. Corral wayward appetites with starters such as smoked mullet dip ($7.49) sidled up next to club crackers and bucking taste buds with the heat from sliced jalapeños. The Black Jack burger fills a toasted bakery roll with a half-pound beef patty draped in pepper jack cheese and blackening seasoning ($8.99), and Casey's classic giant tenderloin sandwich ($9.99) piles a toasted roll high with buttermilk-marinated pork tenderloin, pounded thin for greater ease in jimmying car locks. For a bit of regional flair, the southern seafood basket ($12.99) sets a duo of catfish fillets and buttermilk battered shrimp afloat in a sea of crispy fries, hush puppies, southern-style coleslaw, and fried okra. While tongues are gift-wrapped in savory comestibles, Hot Ticket indulges the rest of the senses with TVs decked out with sports broadcasts such as NFL Sunday Ticket and hosts live music Tuesday–Saturday nights.
Big Fred’s Famous Roast Beef tempts diners with a menu of hot and cold sandwiches and 11 inventive specialty burgers, and challenges ambitious eaters with the 5-pound Hurricane Fred burger. Twosomes can awaken the roast beef sandwich, whose slices of hot, extra-lean roast beef nestle in a bready bed under a blanket of sautéed onions, ringing bell peppers, cheese, and mayo. The Buccaneer burger tests the structural integrity of two 1-pound beef patties, weighing them down with ladles of barbecue sauce, stacks of cheese, layers of fresh veggies, and realistic recreations of tall ships made of bacon. The show-stealing Hurricane Fred burger stars a bite-defying 5-pound beef patty, 10 slices of cheese, 10 strips of bacon, and a coterie of lettuce, tomato, onion, and pickle. Enjoy entrees with a soda and french fries, which can be scattered on tables for impromptu games of pickup sticks.