Merakia occupies the space that housed Kat & Theo from 2015-2017 - and while the restaurant maintains the same ownership as before, it also has a different mission. The modern Greek steakhouse prides itself on its meats and classic seafood items, while maintaining a classy, hip atmosphere in its cavernous space on 21st Street. “We built a new team… and a new vision, ” managing partner James Paloumbis shared with the Manhattan Sideways team when he spoke of the switch from Kat & Theo. He then went on to highlight Merakia’s differences from other Greek restaurants. “It’s not white and blue like every other place in New York City. Our menu is not the copy paste of any other place. ” The menu is heavy on steaks and seafood, boasting their signature lamb on the spit ("the only restaurant in the city to do so") while, surprisingly, offering some robust meat-free options as well. “Everything is farm to table, we use fresh ingredients, [and] we make everything from scratch on a daily basis. ” James told us that part of his mission is to bring back the adventure of going out to eat, a phenomenon he has noticed declining over the years. “People don’t like to go out anymore just to eat. You can eat at home, you can eat down the street, you can order your meal online. But to get an experience of nice service, some nice flavors, nice music, nice drinks - it’s worth your while to go out again. ” Husband and wife team behind Kat & Theo - Renee and Andreas Typaldos - seem to have orchestrated a smooth transition from their previous restaurant. As their past executive chef, Paras Shah, believed, "there should be a movie written about the couple's romantic backstory and that he “couldn’t have worked for better folks. ” Andy is originally from Greece, and the restaurant was named after his parents, Katerina and Theodosios. Andy came to New York on a scholarship from Columbia and met Renee, who is from the Bronx. He took her out on a first date “with holes in his shoes and with no winter jacket, ” according to Renee. She added, “The romantic, poetic way people get together. ” Today, they are paying homage to Andy's Greek heritage and according to James, “People have to trust their stomachs and their palates with a restaurant, so that’s what we’re trying to do here. Trust us - our food is fresh, our food is made with care, and we love what we do. ”
Spending enough time dining at Ethos, it is easy to forget that they are located at the corner of 51st and First Avenue, instead of perched overlooking the ocean somewhere along the western coast of Greece. The only thing missing is a light sea breeze coming through one of the restaurant's wide-open windows. And the longer I chatted with the manager, Stamathis Pelardis, the more I learned about the restaurant and their overwhelming commitment to its heritage. The food is not the only thing that is Hellenic - the entire interior, including the exposed beams supporting the ceiling - were shipped from the Isle of Rhodes, making for one of the most authentic Greek dining experiences possible outside of the country itself. In addition, there are paintings by Greek artists adorning the walls, as Ethos is also a gallery, with changing exhibits every few months. The restaurant's specialty is seafood; there are whole fish offered on their dinner menu, including Mid-Atlantic Wild Bass and Dover Sole. The nautical theme is reflected in the aesthetic of the restaurant. The walls and tables are white, with navy blue accents, and the paintings on the wall, when I visited, depicted seafaring scenes in shades of cobalt and azure. The restaurant's interior is clean and open, with high ceilings and a bar in the center of the room. It is there that I found guests leisurely sipping on a glass of wine or drinking an espresso.
Though Molyvos on W 43rd Street is the most recent creation of the Livanos family, who have a long legacy of operating fine Greek dining restaurants. After John Livanos moved to the US from Greece in 1957, he worked his way up from washing dishes to running his own luncheonette in Manhattan, before moving to fine dining in White Plains and opening Livanos, now known as City Limits. Children Nick, Bill and Corina (as well as Nick’s children Enrico and Johnny) joined their father in business and helped to open Oceana, Ousia/Hudson West and the original Molyvos, located near Carnegie Hall. Molyvos was named after John’s hometown on the Greek island of Lesbos, where the Livanos crew returns regularly to a family home retained through the years. Though the restaurant was forced to close its original location on 55th Street due to decreased foot traffic during pandemic shutdowns, Nick hopes that the eatery’s new home, surrounded by what he described as the joyfully “small town” atmosphere of Hell’s Kitchen, will be a permanent one. In the weeks leading up to their opening, Nick said, “All I need to do is stand in front of the restaurant and — no exaggeration —person after person will stop and talk to me to ask, ‘When are you opening? We’re so excited! We’re so happy you’re here! ’ I’ve never in my life experienced that neighborly of a welcome. ”For Enrico, what the Livanos family does best is focus on their well-honed Greek cuisine and cultivate a warm, intimate atmosphere, for which he believes the smaller space at the new Molyvos is the perfect fit. Another key feature of Molyvos’ new home on 43rd Street is its wine display, built to showcase the restaurant’s extensive beverage program. “We have about 750 wines — possibly the largest Greek wine list in the world, ” Nick said. This story was adapted from the W42ST articles, "It’s Not Goodbye, It’s See You Down the Block! ” — Hudson West Closes as Livanos Family Focus on Opening Molyvos" and "Yiamas! Greek Go-to Eatery Molyvos Opens in Hell’s Kitchen with 750 Wines from the Home Country. "
UCG eats, originally named Urban Garden Cafe, has moved from 118th Street to 104th Street. The space on the corner of Park Avenue and 118th Street was a big white empty box when the Gatanas family first looked inside. It was Dimitri, the eldest son, however, who immediately had a vision, and wow did he make it come to life, literally, towards the end of 2016. The place had been empty for two years, but Dimitri had never paid much attention to it. After a fire happened in their Garden Center, a block away, Dimitri felt that a "shining star appeared, " and told him that he needed to take this, and make it his own by opening up a coffee shop - filled with plants. In addition to the family's history with plants, Dimitri has his own personal passion for collecting. As far as I could tell, Urban Garden Cafe will always be a work in progress, as Dimitri and his wife, Sarah, continue to travel and bring items back to their coffee shop. With one wall painted by a local graffiti artist, and the garden theme carried throughout, every nook is filled with antique and bistro tables, church pews, a parking meter, a seat "taken" from a commercial airplane, miniature chairs from India for young ones to sit on, and an array of colorful items used as both decoration and for sale. Pointing down at the cement floor and then over to the grass mats, Dimitri described UGC as "Urban culture meet nature, and then laughing he added, "hoarder meets a picker. "Sarah then joined us and spoke humorously about their travels. I love how they are able to share their passion for traveling and discovering. One of their excursions took them to Kentucky because Dimitri had read that they have great flea markets there. Little did he know that he would have to send a truck out to pick up all that they had purchased, including the front of a bus, which is now in the cafe. Completely entertained, I could have sat for hours more listening to the couple reminisce about their adventures. "I have encountered many eccentric, neat guys who have accumulated things over the years, " and apparently Dimitri is the perfect person to take them off their hands when they are ready to give them up. The menu pairs well with the plant based theme and the relaxed environment that has been created. It has inspired the food that is served. Due to their love of nature, the family decided to offer meatless options, more like a Mediterranean diet, which makes perfect sense, as it reflects their Greek background. "I love that I can continue our family traditions in a modern way. "On my first visit I had a "Pan de mie con queso" - a mix of Greek gruyere and fontina - "We are giving the Italians a bit of love" - the sandwich was simply done in a panini made on a thick slice of fresh brioche with tomatoes and pepperoncinis. Gooey and maybe the best classic grilled cheese sandwich possible, and it was served on a perfectly dressed mix of lettuce leaves. When I inquired about the coffee, Dimitri chuckled. We use beans roasted in New York, and the guys from the company were kind enough to teach us the business. He admitted, "we knew nothing about making a good cup of coffee and certainly had no idea how to make the leaves or hearts on top of a cup of cappuccino. " I can attest, however, that they have now mastered both. In addition to the sandwiches and salads that are served, the shop is like a mini gourmet market filled with interesting healthy snacks, oils, vinegars, wild flower honey, Greek cheeses and yogurt, oatmeal, hot sauce, dark chocolate toffees, Greek gum and Greek mountain tea. It is not just about a cup of coffee at Urban Garden Cafe, however, there is so much to discover, one needs to spend days to absorb it all. More importantly, though is to be sure to strike up a conversation with Dimitri, his brother Alex, his mom, dad or his wife, Sarah to understand the commitment, the passion and the love that they each feel for their latest project - and each other. "Passion at its absolute finest, " is how Dimitri phrased it. "We are having fun and that is the most important part. We are not pretentious, we are just providing for the community every way we can imagine... I trust this community and I am very proud of it... and I am only trying to transmit positive vibes. "Dimitri shared that he does not believe that the garden center, across the street, will last forever, so it is a good idea to extend the family business in a way that exudes the spirit of the neighborhood today. He prides himself in supporting some of the local artists, and he has even begun a community compost project. "I want to preserve the history by reclaiming items - serve good food to the world, and allow people to come and relax in a welcoming environment. Continuing, "I am not just saying it, we are really intertwined with the neighborhood. " Dimitri then reminded me of the story he had told me when I visited the Garden Center a few weeks before. "It is ironic that my grandmother is standing on a rooftop garden in the first page of the book, "Images of America - East Harlem Revisited. " She is on 117th Street. "We survived through some hard times but I always went back to my grandparent's roots and knew we could make it. He ended by saying, "I embrace all the things my grandma told me to do. I started walking and never knew what I was going to find.... and here I am. "When I tried to describe the setting of UGC to my husband after I returned from my lengthy visit, I realized that I could never do it justice. Therefore, a few days later, I found myself back on 118th Street with my husband in tow. This time it was on a snowy Saturday afternoon. The vibe was slightly different in that there were more people coming and going, rather than those that were nestled in their corner space reading and working during the week. Although I did spy one gentleman with the New York Times spread out before him, sipping on coffee and looking like he was settled in for the remainder of the afternoon. People commented to me that there just is not another place like this in the neighborhood. Everyone seems to have instantly gravitated towards UGC, and they are so appreciative of having a spot like this to purchase a good cup of coffee, something light to eat, and the pleasure of enjoying a conversation with others in their community.
Souvlaki GR provides diners with a small slice of Greek heaven. Amid the decorations, music, and food, visitors can feel as though they have been whisked away to a cozy taverna on the beautiful island of Mykonos. This authenticity is not without reason: Tina Plagos, a first-generation Greek-American who owns Souvlaki GR with her husband, cherishes her heritage. Every summer, Tina and her family return to Greece, where they continue to be inspired with new ideas for their Manhattan eatery. People who visit the restaurant today might be surprised to learn that Souvlaki GR was, initially, a food truck, started by Tina's brother-in-law. Due to its quality and popularity, he promptly won a Vendy Award, which honors the best in street food. Motivated by his success, Tina’s husband opened Souvlaki GR’s first brick-and-mortar location on the Lower East Side. Five years later, in October of 2015, Tina and her husband added the midtown location. The Greek atmosphere begins with the restaurant’s exterior, which is draped with bright pink bougainvillea flowers and tastefully painted in the colors of the Greek flag – Aegean blue and white. Like the traditional tavernas of Greece, the restaurant offers outdoor seating in the warmer months. Inside, the blue and white color theme continues, enhanced by the framed displays, many of which come straight from Greece: One contains several pairs of trendy sunglasses from two fashion-blogger Greek sisters, while another consists of stunning blue evil-eye jewelry that is popular in the Mediterranean, and the third display has worry beads, which are commonly displayed and worn in Greece. In addition to the decorations, the restaurant incorporates Greek design in its layout; there is a small private nook. This is separated from the rest of the dining area by partial walls, giving diners a chance to have an even more peaceful experience in the restaurant’s already-relaxing ambience. The authentic Greek experience begins from the moment one arrives at the restaurant, and continues throughout the meal, as many of the recipes are passed down from family members including the Greek chef’s grandmother. Both locations currently serve souvlaki - small pieces of meat or vegetables grilled on a skewer - in pita wraps. Tina proudly told us that Souvlaki GR receives fresh deliveries of meat and produce every day. Tina went on to say that many of the ingredients are imported straight from Greece - including the wine, beer and spices, and, of course, the extra virgin olive oil, which is from Kalamata. Even the salt on the table, Kalas Classic, is a product of Greece. Tina and her husband's efforts to create a quality cultural experience have not gone unnoticed; Tina has received calls from Chicago, Boston, Miami, Los Angeles, and Denver asking her to open new locations. While Tina is excited about the possibility of future expansion, she wants to add another location in New York first.
Any time of year is the perfect time to take advantage of the light-filled, planted patio at Periyali. This lovely, airy, authentic Greek restaurant evokes the classic white stucco charm and warm breeziness of the Aegean Islands. Charcoal grilled, simply dressed seafood and fish, delicious salads, braised lamb, and hearty moussakas are presented by a delightful staff with background music that creates the perfect setting for dining. Opened in 1987, Periyali was one of the first Greek establishments in Manhattan to feature exclusive fine Greek wines and each dish served can be complemented by their extensive list. Nicola Kotsoni and Steve Tzolis have two successful stories to tell of restaurants on the side streets of Manhattan. The other is the lovely Il Cantinori on 10th Street that has been serving authentic Italian food since 1983. Periyali also boasts some of the most loyal and exuberant employees in the restaurant business. The Manhattan Sideways team met Mack, a waiter who says he “comes with the building. ” He has been with the restaurant since day one, and because of that, he knows the face of every regular and has his finger on the pulse of the restaurant. He told us about when Periyali first opened, and the area was one of the worst neighborhoods in the city. Employees from the nearby publishing companies would come for lunch, but otherwise, the restaurant was fairly empty. After Mayor Giuliani helped improve the Chelsea/Gramercy area, a considerable number of regular customers began dining at Periyali. Mack went on to say that he is surprised that the restaurant’s neighborhood is now considered as “chichi” as the Upper East Side. These days, he serves clientele “from South Carolina to Dubai. ” When asked about the article in the February 2015 Wall Street Journal, Mack commented that he appreciated better than most the effect that the favorable review would have. Not only did he notice a torrent of new faces, but the restaurant completely sold out of octopus, a dish pictured in the writeup and considered to be one of the most popular. The Manhattan Sideways team sampled the highly regarded octopus, which had a crispy texture and a pleasant barbecue flavor, delicately sprinkled with lemon. The lamb chops were tender and cooked to perfection, as was the moussaka, a warm dish that was heavenly on a cold day. I, of course, reveled in the simply dressed, yet excellent, Greek salad. From Periyali’s oldest employee, we continued our conversation with one of its newest members, Florence Deniau. Heading up their PR team, we teased out her fascinating history. Originally from Paris, she is well traveled, and has lived everywhere from Los Angeles to Beirut - and is currently residing happily in Harlem. She was quite pleased to boast of the magnificent floral arrangements in both this restaurant and Il Cantinori, as it is Nicola, herself, who is responsible for these. Florence is an example of the extraordinary people we continue to meet while walking on the side streets. There is no doubt that with her worldliness, warm and friendly personality, that she is the latest asset to the Periyali family.
In the heat of the day, we stopped in Pylos to eat a light lunch. While waiting for our horiatiki salads, we enjoyed the ambiance of contemporary and traditional styles blending as one: the clean, crisp decor clashed nicely with the ceiling strung with clay pots and the house bar topped with gray marble. Our meal arrived. Salads dressed simply in olive oil and red wine vinegar, kalamata olives, capers and feta served with warm pita on the side hit the spot. On evenings when we have been by, the restaurant is filled with people engaged in conversation and savoring their dishes. On this particular day, it was as if we sat in a shady cafe on the shores of the Mediterranean, the hum of 7th outside, the open doors giving us that al fresco feeling. Jared, a member of the Manhattan Sideways team, first encountered Pylos by accident a few years ago when his family was in search of a good Greek meal. They knew they had found a winner when they saw the lively crowd spilling out of Pylos and walked inside; needless to say, they have been back many times since. For dinner, the menu consists of delicious traditional Greek recipes such as moussaka, braised lamb chops, and grilled whole fish in olive oil and herbs, and more contemporary dishes such as chickpea soup with roasted tomatoes and caramelized onions, or organic chicken farci with raisins, rosemary, thyme, and kasseri cheese over roasted zucchini and eggplant.