Thursday, April 18, 2024

First-time restaurateur eyes January opening for Meet the Greek

Meet the Greeks hopes to open in two weeks after inspections are complete. (Port City Daily/Shea Carver)

WILMINGTON — From sand-blasting bridges to painting and upfitting his own eatery in Monkey Junction, Ilias Sarris is making a lifelong dream come true this month as he exits the construction business to become a restaurateur.

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“The inspection should be in the next two weeks,” Sarris said Monday afternoon.

He was standing in his soon-to-be-opened Meet the Greek, nestled between Indochine Express and Leland Smoke House. The 1,200-square-foot restaurant still sparkled from the newly minted restaurant equipment recently installed, a fresh coat of paint on the white walls, with light wood and metal tables and bar seating. It’s highlighted by greenery, photographs of Greece and lighting made of hanging rope and Edison-bulbs. 

“We wanted a clean, industrial, warm look,” Sarris said, something different from the former bright cobalt blue walls and dark tiles once inhabiting the space. 

Indoors at Meet the Greeks, roughly 20 diners can dine inside. (Port City Daily/Shea Carver)

Roughly 20 seats are indoors, with outdoor seating potentially added in later. Sarris’ original plan was to operate in the shopping plaza next door, specifically in the space formerly known as the wine shop Soif de Vin.

“But it was too big,” he said, “and too much for my budget.”

In August, he signed the contract for 5120 College Road, located directly in front of Walmart, which also used to be the restaurant The Greeks before closing in 2022.

Sarris was born and raised in Greece and worked in restaurants, primarily fast-casual concepts, starting at age 15. They often served typical Greek street food, such as souvlaki and gyros, also what Meet the Greek will be focused on.

“In Greece, gyro is the cone, not the sandwich,” Sarris explained. 

He’s referring to the rotisserie spit the meats are cooked on and shaved from to build the pita.

“To order it as a sandwich, you would say the meat, like gyro pork, and then ‘pita.’ And they’re all stuffed with fries,” Sarris said.

At Meet the Greek, he will serve the pitas the same way as back home — with choice of protein — primarily pork and chicken. Though there also will be lamb and beef, and chicken wrapped with bacon. 

“But in Greece we don’t serve lamb and beef,” Sarris added. “That’s more American. I prefer the pork — it’s chunks of meat, marinated in spices, and tastes like bacon.”

The gyros will come with lettuce, tomato, onion and a choice of sauce, like tzatziki or a specialized mustard blend.

“It’s made with different spices and we usually eat mustard on the chicken,” he said. 

Also on the menu will be platters — served with souvlaki, or skewered meat preference, Greek salad (lettuce, tomato, onion, olives and good quality olive oil with oregano) and fries. There will be no hummus, no tabbouleh, as some diners have come to expect of a Mediterranean eatery.

“Hummus isn’t authentically Greek,” Sarris said, referring to its Middle Eastern roots.

He expects prices to be on average $10 or so and will add more specials to the menu as the restaurant opens to the public.

“We want the customers to show us what they want,” he added.

Sarris, who moved to the states from Greece eight years ago, has been working in construction, specifically on bridges. However, cooking is his passion.

“I like to make food that makes people happy, you know?” he said. “Bring something new, in both flavor and taste.”

He has been saving financially so he and his wife, Nefeli Kalampogia, could run the family operation. They’ll start with a lean staff of five before assessing more positions as the restaurant opens.

Meet the Greek will operate from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and will be closed on Sunday for the first few months. If demand is there, Sarris may re-evaluate.

The restaurant will be open for dine-in, take out and delivery through third-party apps like DoorDash, plus catering will be available.

New kitchen equipment was installed in the renovation of the restaurant at 5120 S. College Road. (Port City Daily/Shea Carver)

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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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