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.
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.
While it takes prodigious skill to man the 600-degree, 7-foot grill that is the center of bd’s Mongolian Grill’s dining room, the chefs running it don’t have any secret recipes. Instead, customers fashion their own customizable bowls of stir-fry according to their taste preferences, dietary restrictions, and desired portion size. Guests wander, nearly overwhelmed as they choose from an array of meats and veggies and ladle sweet, spicy, and herb-filled sauces into a cup. Chefs sauté the meal in front of their eyes, swords flicking skillfully across the grill to entertain and build anticipation like a mime about to jump buses on an invisible motorcycle. The resulting stir-fry dishes are accompanied by brown rice, white rice, tortillas or lettuce wraps.
The menu at City Fish Seafood Grill & Chophouse reads like an edible atlas. The The chefs here source fresh salmon from the Atlantic, seabass from Chili, and lobsters from Maine. And the preparations are just as global as the proteins: shellfish-laden paella evokes the eateries of Spain, while beer-battered fish 'n' chips pays tribute to England's famous tartar sauce springs. International flavors also accent sushi selections, from classic tuna and California rolls to the cajun-inspired Bubba Gump, loaded with fried Louisiana crawfish, mango, and cream cheese.
Globe-trotting flair can be found behind the bar as well. Bartenders pour sake, and uncork wines from Italy and New Zealand. Imported spirits are shaken, stirred, and siphoned into specialty cocktails such as the Snickers martini, accented with caramel vodka and amaretto. On weekends, bottomless mimosas and Bloody Marys accompany hearty brunch spreads of omelets and french toast.
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.
Aromas of European grain-filtered coffee and freshly squeezed orange juice mingle with the hearty scent of buckwheat pancakes cooking on Eggstyle’s griddles. Behind a full juice bar, fruit tenders blend yogurt-infused smoothies with fresh peaches, oranges, and pineapples and pour a warm selection of coffee and tea drinks. Chefs stuff thin crepes, prepared fresh daily, with cream cheese and raspberry coulis or brie and pears while crowning nine different types of benedict with housemade hollandaise sauce. Every Monday–Friday, a lunch menu helps field orders for busy office workers and diners who took too long to decide what to order for breakfast.