Tock: What was it like growing up on the small island of Lefkada, Greece? And what about Coconut Grove reminded you of Lefkada?
Karavias: Growing up in Lefkada was amazing. Definitely a small place (even smaller in the winter without the tourists) but it has some of the most beautiful landscapes and beaches of anywhere in the world. I always tell people that it’s difficult for one to realize how special it is to grow up in a place where everyone knows everyone (for better or for worse) and not to have to worry about many of the things we often stress about today. And even more for a kid—playing carefree late into the nights on a daily basis with people with whom you grow up.
Coconut Grove is so much like this. Seeing the locals here be so proud of this small special area gives me the feeling of being in a little village. Some businesses have been here for a couple of generations. Being able to take a stroll from one’s house to the park, to the waterfront, to the grocery store and even the movies is a lot like what I remember growing up. Grovites are pleasant, open and kind, and they are very community-oriented which is something I definitely relate to.
Tock: What did your father teach you about hospitality?
Karavias: The number one thing that my father passed on down to me about this industry was that if you provide guests with good food and good service, they will seek you out! Many times we hear that it’s all about location, but I believe that is only a small part of the battle. It definitely gives an advantage, but being able to see any location as an opportunity to create something special was something passed on down from my father. To not fear the challenge nor to be afraid of a failure—ultimately it is us that define what’s a success or a failure, not what we think the world perceives.
“If you provide guests with good food and good service, they will seek you out.”
Tock: Before chef Giannis Kotsos was your business partner, he was your best friend. What’s it been like building the business together?
Karavias: Chef Giannis was definitely one of my best friends prior to being a partner. I think that’s played an instrumental role in building a business together—because it’s definitely not easy. It requires a lot of patience, respect for one another and understanding, and sometimes it is difficult for two partners to make it through good and bad times together if they don’t see those qualities in one another. What I believe sets us apart is that we both really love to do what we’re doing—it’s not about the money but enjoying the craft. I truly believe that the word “Meraki” defines us. We’ve both been through a lot so that’s molded us into people who understand each other well.
Tock: What does authentic Greek food mean to you? Any misconceptions?
Karavias: Greek food is about fresh, unique, yet simple ingredients. It doesn’t have to be “fancy” or “fused” with other cuisines to show how great the cuisine is. The great misconception in this country is that Greek Food is mainly gyros and lamb, which are some of the popular items but just a small percentage of the actual cuisine. We focus on fresh fish and seafood, a lot of vegetables and vegetarian dishes and light items that in today’s “eating out” world aren’t much of a focus. I feel like the majority of consumers are automatically looking for the meat options and don’t take advantage of the various flavors one can have by eating many smaller dishes.
“What I believe sets us apart is that we both really love to do what we’re doing—it’s not about the money but enjoying the craft.”
Tock: A dish, drink, or pairing that guests shouldn’t skip?
Karavias: One of my favorite food/wine pairings is our Shrimp Saganaki with Almyra Chardonnay.
Tock: Tell us about the wine program. Have Greek wines been underrated? Any favorite producers?
Karavias: Greek wines are not necessarily underrated, but relatively unknown, and we as Greek restauranteurs are to blame for that in part because we tend to go for the popular options rather than offer our unique Greek wines to the world and take the time to educate the public. For sure I have a couple of favorite producers, like “Garalis” who makes the best Retsina in my opinion, “Skouras” who is one of the most talented wine makers with his Moschofilero & Chardonnay and the award winning Nico Lazaridi.