Sauce Magazine – Olympia Kebob House & Taverna is a St. Louis landmark

Sauce Magazine – Olympia Kebob House & Taverna is a St. Louis landmark

Olympia Kebob House & Taverna is a St. Louis landmark

If you have by no means been to Olympia Kebob House & Taverna earlier than, the very first thing you may hear is flaming cheese, or saganaki. Your pals will say you need to order it, and so they’d be proper. I’m watching the server mild brandy-soaked slices cashier the flame is enjoyable, and the cheese itself is scrumptious. But because the trick is repeated on the tables round you, the ritual conjures up moments of shared pleasure which were few and much between these days.

A busy night time on the Olympia is a dizzying expertise, with diners clustered round tables overflowing with shared Greek plates—kebabs, moussaka, spanakopita—servers coming and going and boisterous dialog filling the room. Diners of all ages – households with younger youngsters, older {couples}, twenty-one thing pals – appear effortlessly and enthusiastically in sync, contributing equally to the electrical ambiance.

“That’s the element that the customers themselves bring in,” stated co-proprietor George Nicholas. “It’s like an ‘If you build it, they will come,’ kind of thing — create the right atmosphere, get the food right, and the people do the rest.”

The Nikolas household has nurtured these moments in Olympia for 42 years. George’s grandfather, Pete, purchased the constructing within the Nineteen Forties after leaving his dwelling in Rhodes, Greece, throughout World War II. On one aspect of the primary ground house, Pete had a laundry room. For a long time, he has rented the opposite aspect for varied companies. “I heard a lot of different things,” Nicholas stated. “That it was an Indian restaurant, I heard it was a hardware store, a Kroger.”

In 1980, Pete’s son (and George’s father), George Nicholas Sr., impressed by a journey to Greece, had an thought. “He said, ‘Well, why don’t we open a souvlaki shack?'” Nicholas stated. Pete agreed, and father and son opened Olympia, serving gyros, souvlaki and extra. Pete’s cousin Marietta supplied recipes which can be nonetheless in use right now. “She did not converse a lot English; she could be on the again and she or he did all of the Greek specialties,” Nikolas stated.

dish from Olympia Kebob House and Tavern // photograph by david Kovaluk

George Sr. handed away in 2018, leaving George and his brother Christopher in control of the restaurant. However, a few of Olympia’s key options are a lasting tribute to George Sr.’s ingenuity. The restaurant’s cubicles characteristic an ecumenical assortment of pews that he scavenged from disused and dilapidated church buildings round city. “I don’t know if he was going for a certain aesthetic or if it was a free place,” Nicholas stated. “He just took a church pew, cut it in half and nailed it to the wall.” After Pete closed the laundry within the Nineteen Nineties, George Sr. expanded Olympia, turning the laundry house into a lounge that options a gorgeous bar, one other salvaged merchandise. “I was told it came out of a men’s clothing store,” Nicholas stated.

Nicholas describes a mean weekend night time in Olympia as “chaotic,” however he stated that is simply the best way his clients prefer it. “I’ve had clients are available not too long ago and say, ‘Oh, we used to return in and your dad and your grandpa have been yelling at one another.’ … And they liked it,” he stated. They thought, ‘This is a actual household restaurant.’

The employees additionally take time to get pleasure from and share the sort of shared moments of reflection and pleasure they supply to clients. “We sit around this table, we just had a toast to my dad, just the other night, reminiscing about all these memories,” Nicholas stated. “That’s what it’s all about. It’s not about the food, it’s not about the cost of goods and all that stuff. It’s just about the people.”

Still solely 33, Nicholas stated he and Christopher need to make certain Olympia stays related in a aggressive trade, however in addition they have a robust sense of responsibility to the restaurant’s lengthy-time period clients. “It means a lot to so many of our customers that we are here to be a constant in their lives,” he stated. “I have a responsibility to my family to be here because they all take so much pride in the restaurant, and to our customers because they have so many memories here.”

Nicholas stated he thinks his father and grandfather could be proud to see the place Olympia is right now. “I think they would have their opinions and maybe disagree with some of the changes, but I think overall they would be proud that we’re still opening our doors, we’re still welcoming customers and we’re still here. continuing the legacy,” Nicholas stated. “And we’re going to do it our way, whether they like it or not!”

1543 McCausland Ave., St. Louis, 314.781.1299,

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