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Monday, May 27, 2024

Durham restaurateur brings ‘elevated Greek’ to Lumina Station

Kipos will take over the former 1900 Restaurant and Lounge space, focuses on fresh flavors and seafood

The Greek restaurant, Kipos, will be opening in the former 1900 Restaurant and Lounge space in Lumina Station by early summer. (Port City Daily/Shea Carver)

WILMINGTON — A Durham restaurant group is adding to its brand with its first Wilmington location opening by early summer. Giorgios Bakatsias signed the lease in December at the former 1900 Restaurant and Lounge in Lumina Station.

He will be opening Kipos — a restaurant focusing on flavors from Greece, where Bakatsias spent his childhood.

“It’s going to be elevated Greek,” he said. “It’s going to be Hellenic cuisine, which is focusing on coastal cuisine.”

With the ocean only a mile away, fresh seafood will be the centerpiece, prepared with simplistic flavors: quality olive oil, fresh lemon, herbs. “Very healthy cuisine,” Bakatsias said, featuring fresh catches from local fishermen and produce from regional farmers.

The 140-seat restaurant will be open for dinner first, with seats offered both indoors and as part of its outdoor garden space. It eventually will work its way into serving lunch, Bakatsias said.

Renovations are underway with the help of REES Architecture PC and J.R. Connette Building and Development. They are transforming the dark space with a more airy vibe, according to Bakatsias. “Layers of whites — off white, dirty white. I want this space to uplift your energy,” he said.

The Kipos menu Bakatsias turned over to the health department is broken up into five sections.  “Mezze and soup” will feature traditional Greek staples, like spanakopita, keftedes (beef meatballs), and green chickpea hummus, but also spicy whipped feta. 

“Raw” includes local oysters and daily crudo, while “Garden” consists of salads, such as fennel and arugula with orange segments, manouri cheese and pine nuts.

“Sea” highlights seafood, like grilled octopus with fennel, cherry tomatoes and capers. Locally caught grouper and flounder make an appearance, as does whole branzino and Chilean sea bass, scallops and shrimp. When not dressed simply in olive oil, some come with sauces, like meuniere caper, shallot and white wine, or mango-pineapple salsa.

“Fish, something that swims so free and wild in the ocean across the world, you don’t want to mess with it,” Bakatsias said. “Cooking it perfect takes a craft from someone that has respect.”

“Land” will include more Greek staples, like moussaka and souvlaki, but also chops — both lamb and veal — filet mignon and ribeye.

Prices will be $5 to $16 for smaller plates and up to $28 for entrees.

At the bar, there will be a focus on Greek wines as well as freshly crafted cocktails. “We like ingredients that are natural,” Bakatsias said. “I don’t like a lot of fusions with too much sugar that create an imbalance in the drink.”

Bakatsias came to America from Greece when he was 21 to open his first restaurant in Durham in 1978. He now operates 11 in the Triangle area: Parizade, Bin 54 Steak & Cellar, Farm Table, Gatehouse Tavern, Kipos Green Taverna, Local 22, Nasher Museum Cafe, Rosewater, Vin Rouge, and Osteria Georgi. Styles of cuisine range from French to Italian to traditional steakhouse fare.

“We have been involved with about 50 restaurants throughout the years,” he said of Giorgios Hospitality and Lifestyle Group. “They’ve all been an expression of what I felt the community is … You always hope the restaurant will serve the community in a way that is beneficial.”

He has visited Wilmington plenty during his time in Raleigh and said the time was right to expand further South and create a coastal experience representative of home. “I always want to feel what goes on with the culture, with the arts, with everything that contributes to a great community, and I think the whole Wilmington community has evolved quite a bit,” he said.

It wouldn’t surprise him to see more out-of-town restaurateurs eyeing the area, he added. Already two other eateries in Lumina Station — Brasserie du Soleil and Blueberry’s Grill — are operated by out-of-towners from Raleigh and North Myrtle Beach, respectively.

While Bakatsias isn’t opposed to launching other concepts locally, he said he prefers to concentrate on one at a time, utilizing the same tried-and-true procedures that have worked for all of his operations: depending on great staff to help propel it. Bakatsias has a chef in mind for Kipos, though he is mum on revealing the name. He said while some of the recipes will come from his family, the kitchen staff will bring their own style and technique to each dish.

“In years of experience, you learn the whole secret is to surround yourself with great people and great leaders for people to excel and serve good, honest food,” he said.

Kipos will be located in Lumina Station at 1900 Eastwood Rd. Bakatsias is hoping for a late May, early June opening.

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Shea Carver
Shea Carver
Shea Carver is the editor in chief at Port City Daily. A UNCW alumna, Shea worked in the print media business in Wilmington for 22 years before joining the PCD team in October 2020. She specializes in arts coverage — music, film, literature, theatre — the dining scene, and can often be tapped on where to go, what to do and who to see in Wilmington. When she isn’t hanging with her pup, Shadow Wolf, tending the garden or spinning vinyl, she’s attending concerts and live theater.

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