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.
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.
The secret behind Frankie's Patriot BBQ is in the small batches. Craig, the resident pit boss, cooks all the BBQ fresh for each day—when they run out they run out. Craig cooks up juicy, flavorful meats that include sliced brisket, smoked chicken, and pulled pork, slow cooked over the course of seven hours or more. Other southern delicacies include lightly fried gator bites, sides of collard greens, and fluffy cornbread.
At Pit Boss Bar-B-Q, oak-fueled flames sear slabs of meat, sealing in their natural juices and imparting a distinctive smoky flavor. To season meats, chefs draw inspiration from numerous barbecue traditions across the South. They slather pork and beef with vinegar-based sauce for sandwiches in the North Carolina style, and they top chopped barbecue beef with grilled onions and cheese for a taste of the southwest. And because a trip to a smokehouse would be incomplete without sampling some homestyle sides, Pit Boss rounds out platters with baked beans, fried okra, red-skinned-potato salad, collard greens, and more. Additionally, chefs offer their culinary creations to celebrations and drawn-out court arraignments, gladly customizing catering menus to suit partygoers’ tastes.
Restaurants are in Chef Victor Wang's blood—he comes from a family with multiple generations in the industry. Rather than rest on that heritage, he toured Asia and the Americas for more than 20 years, seeking recipes and lessons from numerous chefs specializing in a variety of cuisines.
These days, the critically acclaimed chef injects American flavors into classic Asian cuisine from countries such as China, Korea, Thailand, and Malaysia. His menu may include Prince Edward Island mussels doused with holly, basil, and ginger; lemongrass-infused chicken soaked in a coconut curry cooked for hours; and seared sirloin marinated in sesame, soy, and garlic. Chef Victor can often be found in the dining room, explaining the complexity of his dishes and why it's too hard to teach broccoli to roll over.