June 11, 2020
Miami has Little Haiti and Little Havana. Orlando has Little Vietnam. And in northern Pinellas County, you’ll find an ethnic enclave like no other: Tarpon Springs.
In the late 1800s, Greek immigrants established the town’s sponge-diving industry. Today, visitors flock to Tarpon Springs not only to buy sponges but also to sample the authentic Greek food.
One of area’s most popular eateries is Mykonos, which the Tampa Bay Times named one of Tampa Bay’s 25 most iconic restaurants. Named after the Greek island of Mykonos (pronounced MEE-cone-os), the restaurant has been a Tarpon Springs institution since 1992, when it was founded by Andreas Salivaras. After operating several mainstream restaurants, including a pizza business, Salivaras turned his attention to the flavors of his native country.
“We don’t want to lose the flavor of Greece,” says Salivaras, 79, who grew up on the small Greek island of Kimolos and attended high school in Athens before moving to the United States six decades ago.
That Greek flavor shines at Mykonos in dishes like the restaurant’s popular lamb fricassee and cucumber-tomato salad, both seasoned with green onions, parsley and of course olive oil.
“People come from all around the world just to try his food,” says Salivaras’s granddaughter, 23-year-old Nichole Pastis, who’s been helping at Mykonos since she was in middle school.
Salivaras says he has no plans to change that food. His goal is to keep making dishes that remind him of his grandmother and to make every customer feel like family.
“I don’t want to do Mykonos modern. I want to keep it the same, because this type of food, this type of atmosphere, people… love it,” he says. “The hospitality and the food, they go together.”
That’s what keeps customers coming back to Mykonos and Salivaras’s business around the corner, Fournos Bakery. He contends that the consistency of his food reflects the consistency of Tarpon Springs as a whole—the restaurants, the sponge docks, the annual Epiphany celebration.
Even in the United States now, everything changes,” Salivaras says. “But not Tarpon Springs.”
Explore The Zest
Host: Dalia Colón
Producer: Dalia Colón & Robin Sussingham
Photo Credits: Dalia Colón