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.
Stelios Migdakis had long dreamt of moving his family from New York to Florida’s sun-drenched shores, jumping at the chance to open an eatery in Tarpon Springs’ Greek Town. He draws from the Old World recipes of his kin in Crete and his wife's relatives in Lesvos to compose a menu consisting of delicately battered seafood and slow-roasted lamb and beef. Within the elegant eatery, murals of serene Greek isles and grazing herds of Trojan horses punctuate the pale-marble walls as Greek music spills out onto the adjoining patio.
Zante Cafe crafts a culinary collage of Cajun, Creole, Italian, Greek, and French flavors, fresh to order, in its inviting familial atmosphere. Reward your mouth for years of service by decorating it with medallions of louisiana crab cakes ($7.99 at lunch; $9 at dinner), which are sidekicked by creole rémoulade. The frog legs sauce piquant find their princely place on plates after smothered in fresh herbs, deglazed with wine, kissed with lemon juice, and kickboxed by an archduke ($10.99 lunch; $19 dinner). Or uncover the gastronomic character of the Mediterranean shores by sampling tangles of pasta primavera ($7.99 lunch; $15 dinner), or, if dining for lunch, commemorate baby Hercules's first medicine ball exercise with a bulbous gyro pita ($8.99). Guests can then feel free to cap off an evening meal—such as the French-faring rib eye with sauce au poivre ($23)—with a sweet serving of bananas foster ($8).
Currents sweeps taste buds out to sea on a wave of tasty seafood and carefully crafted gourmet fare. Diners can search the menu to locate flavorful starters such as a plate of prosciutto-wrapped shrimp ($9.80), brie with pesto and almonds ($9.30), or the snails leslie served in brandy with toast points ($7.90). A bowl of lobster-and-crab bisque ($6) could inspire your mouth to throw itself hungrily at New York strip steak ($22.50) or meatloaf in hoisin barbecue sauce ($10.90), although it might prefer to stick with water-related edibles such as the seared salmon ($17.50). Currents boasts an array of red, white, and sparkling wines for cuisine coupling, and also treats diners to a full bar featuring fine brews, dessert drinks, cocktails, and specialty martinis such as the double bubble tini ($8), a mix of Three-O Bubble vodka and pink lemonade.
At Hiro's Tokyo Japanese Steakhouse and Sushi Bar, every meal is a feast for the eyes as well as the stomach. Servers wear traditional outfits, and mixologists muddle sake mojitos and colossal tropical cocktails at a backlit bar. Sushi rolls arrive painted with colorful sauces, artfully topped with Panko, fish, and roe.
However, the real showmanship happens at the eight-person hibachi table, located next to a luminous saltwater aquarium. This is where a red-hatted chef cracks jokes, conjures bursts of flame, and executes utensil-twirling moves as he slices and serves. The steel flashes as steak and seafoods sizzle, and mouths switch seamlessly between laughing and chewing. A ventilation system above the grill dissipates the smoke, and carries away unwanted leftovers so long as they're tied to a balloon.
The sound of the sizzling skillet is as regular as a rooster's crow each morning at Rodie’s Restaurant & Pancake House. Before long, the wait staff is delivering skillets, omelets and crepe creations to diners eagerly clutching their forks, knifes, and maple-tree taps. As the afternoon sun perches high in the sky, the lunch crowd lingers to enjoy greek salads and triple-decker sandwiches paired with a collection of homemade soups.