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.
Many of the exotic herbs and flavorful spices in the kitchen of Desi Tadka came from India, where tropical trees grow thick with curry leaves and colorful flowers blossom with saffron. The eatery's chefs fold these traditional spices into a sweeping variety of authentic Indian dishes, pulling from recipes indigenous to the province of Punjab. They stir tender morsels of chicken, lamb, and seafood into delicate curries, and garnish aromatic biryani rice dishes with sliced almonds. The chefs bake kebabs and tandoori specialties in a fiery clay oven, along with naan breads stuffed with garlic, chicken, and vegetables.
As chefs oversee the cooking in the kitchen, servers bustle about the dining room. They refill glasses of fine international wines and uncap frosty bottles of imported Indian beers. When taking orders, the servers take note of special dietary concerns, such as an aversion to spicy food or a tendency to transform into a field mouse upon eating any kind of gluten.
The chefs at Skara Mediterranean Grill never stray far from garlic, tahini, olive oil, and other quintessential Greek seasonings. Chilled dips and spreads, such as hummus and tzatziki, and warm appetizers, such as zucchini fritters, kick off meals before waiters bring out rich entrees that include grilled whole red snapper and lobster pasta. As diners sip Greek and Napa wines, they settle into the welcoming dining room, which exudes the essence of the Cyclades Greek Islands and is warmly decorated with some of Zeus's old paintings. Accents of traditional blue and white ignite the room while diners savor imported beers to complement the authentic Mediterranean dining experience.
Stroll through an Oldsmar farmers market early in the morning and you might run into Andrew Koumi rifling through baskets of tomatoes in search of the ripest ones. The mastermind behind Green Market Cafe, Andrew was still in college when he hatched the plan to open an eatery that served healthy takes on sandwiches and soups. When discussing the inspiration behind the restaurant with reporters from the Tampa Bay Times, Andrew explained, "I wanted to create a place where I'd like to go and eat everyday."
Arms laden with bags of produce, Andrew returns to his café, where his chefs fold the fresh vegetables into crisp salads and toasty grilled flatbreads. Because everything is made to order, chefs are able to accommodate special requests, adding extra tomatoes or picking out any raisins that look too much like a California Raisin. Diners chitchat over cups of organic tea inside the colorful dining room, an open space tinted with greens, purples, and pinks to please the eye. The building is also home to Kiwi Frozen Yogurt, Green Market Cafe's sister shop, which serves wholesome yogurt with candy and fruit toppings.