The Greek marks 40 years of garlicky goodness

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      Alexi Makris’ earliest memory of his parents’ Greek restaurant is a humble one: peeling potatoes.

      Along with his two brothers, he began working in the restaurant—Anatoli Souvlaki in North Vancouver—when he was a little kid.

      “My dad’s this typical Greek, like, ‘Sit here and peel them,’” he recalls via phone. “Also, he’d make us peel them where people could watch us. I think he thought it was cute, like, ‘Look at the boys peeling the potatoes.’”

      So there he sat, peeling box after box of spuds—until he eventually learned that the restaurant had a commercial peeler.

      But that’s not how it goes in family businesses; you don’t take shortcuts. Instead, you work. You learn the ropes. You focus. You push through discomfort.

      It’s undoubtedly this ethos that has kept Anatoli Souvlaki going for so long. The restaurant is celebrating 40 years this month, marking countless hours of serving garlicky goodness to the North Vancouver community.

      The family’s culinary roots in the area date back to 1929, when Alexi’s grandparents ran a cafe. When Alexi’s parents Helen and Thomas got married—after meeting at a Greek restaurant, of course; she was a server and he was a hobby Greek dancer—Helen’s parents gifted them a building (casual) to help get them on their feet. They lived in the top half and turned the bottom half into Anatoli Souvlaki, which opened in 1984.

      Back then, Lower Lonsdale wasn’t exactly the blossoming hub it’s becoming now.

      “They were building the market,” Helen recalls. “It was just all dirt.”

      She and Thomas thought they’d operate a quick-dine model, but it turns out, the community was starved (pun!) for somewhere cozy to pull up a seat and relax.

      “We thought we’d do fast food, but people wanted to stay in and eat,” she says. “There weren’t a lot of restaurants there, so it took off quickly—even though at that time, in ‘84, it was a major recession.” 

      Taking recipes from Helen’s grandmother—a Turkish Greek who settled in Canada at the turn of the century—they quickly made a name for themselves by serving authentic, approachable, and flavour-forward Greek food.

      In 2015, two of the boys—Alexi and Iani—decided to expand on their parents’ vision by bringing a sister concept to Vancouver proper. The Greek opened in Yaletown in 2015, and soon became popular for its family-style menu of tried and true favourites (spanakopita, Greek salad, chicken souvlaki, et al).

      “The neighborhood really, I think, needed good food and a fun vibe,” Iani says. “We were having a good time. We were breaking plates. And we were serving up excellent food. It took off without a hitch from day one. We were very fortunate.”

      In 2019, they added another location in Gastown, and earlier this year added number four on West Broadway.

      Four restaurants for four decades: it certainly has a nice ring to it.

      “It’s been 40 years of fun, chaos, gratitude,” Iani says. “All the emotions.”

      To celebrate the milestone, the  OG North Van location is offering a special menu at 1984 prices for one day only. On April 19, diners can expect items like hummus and pita for $5.50, spanakopita for $10, and chicken souvlaki dinners for $14.50. Reservations are, understandably, highly recommended.

      “I can’t believe we have four locations and I can’t believe it's been 40 years,” Alexi muses. “It’s older than me!”

      Anatoli Souvlaki, The Greek’s North Vancouver location, can be found at 5 Lonsdale Avenue. The special anniversary menu is available at Anatoli Souvlaki on April 19 from 11:30am to 11pm.