Louis Pappas is still Greek to Tampa Bay after 60 years. Now, however, it’s a New-Generation Pappas, streamlined for today’s lifestyles at more easy-to-reach locations. Spearheading the New Generation is Louis’ grandson, Louis Lucas Pappas.
Upscale, yet casual, the new Pappas’ open kitchens entertain as they serve. To streamline service for busy people, guests eating in the restaurant, place their order, take a number, fix their beverage and find a table before they’re served.
The Greek diet is a reasonably healthy diet, not too highly spiced. There’s still no lobster or thick steaks at Louis Pappas, only wholesome foods made with olive oil, which is a monounsaturated oil, and seasoning generally centered around fresh lemon juice, maybe garlic, almost always some mint and frequently oregano. You don’t get French fries at Pappas, either but rice pilaf, “Greek Style” potatoes or seasonal veggies instead.
The Pappas menu has undergone some Market Café changes. To be sure, they’ve kept many of the favorites including Chicken Avgolemono, their signature soup. So subtle, this delightful lemon soup is always filled with petal-soft orzo and delicate shreds of chicken. Gyros, Souvlaki, Pastitso, Dolmades, Mousaka and Spanakopita spinach pie remain part of their plan, as well. Two versions of lamb appear along with rotations featuring other favorites. Grouper lovers get to look forward to a different Special each month.
With this “New Generation” comes another salad, this one a Walnut Raisin Chicken one, and a sandwich version is their Chicken Salad Melt, with Swiss cheese, onion and tomato served on toasted marble rye. Their Mediterranean Spreads & Appetizers — Hummus, Roasted Garlic Feta and Tzatziki come with toasty pita crostinis.
They borrow from a few other cultures with an Italian touch in a Turkey Pesto also a Tuscan Chicken signature sandwich. Also newly arrived is a Mojo Pork Sandwich served with an herbed dipping sauce. New too is the Smoked Turkey & Swiss Wrap and a Greek Stir Fry.
It’s pretty hard to talk Greek food without talking Greek salad. With it, so often, come debates about the potato salad inside a Pappas’ Greek Salad. Some argue it’s a custom from a certain region in Greece, while others debate it’s a regional U.S. thing. To know how the potato salad got into Greek salad, one needs only to know more about Louis Pappas. An ambitious young man, he came to the U.S. in 1904 from Sparta Greece soon shortening his last name of Pappamichalopoulos to Pappas. During WW I, he found himself back in Europe again and a chef in the French army. His job was to feed the hungry men of General George Pershing’s “Wildcat Division.” One of the ways he increased their nutrition was adding potatoes to the salads he served them. “Potatoes in Greek Salad started with Louis Pappas,” states spokesperson, Nancy Pappas from Pappas Corporate in Tarpon Springs. Mystery solved.
In the old Pappas restaurants, serving Greek Salad was bit of a ritual: If you wanted a Greek salad for two, you ordered Greek Salad for one, which was enormous. The matronly waitress would bring the large, brightly decorated mound to the table and politely ask if you’d care to have it put on individual plates. There was no other practical way for two people to attack it. So, tableside, the waitress meticulously divided it up — one of this, two of that, three of this, etc., down to the prized potato salad.
So, it is thanks to Louis Pappas, one thing everyone in Tampa Bay can expect, as surely as they can’t “poke along the Howard Frankland,” there will always be that simple, potato salad nestled down in the middle of the heap of Louis Pappas’ Greek Salad, even if you’re not a Wildcat French soldier in battle — better than the prize in a box of Cracker Jacks.
The New Generation Pappas makes it pretty easy to throw a Big Fat Greek Wedding occasion almost any time. Their methods of weights and measures on their catering menu are fascinating. First off is a litany of amounts of Greek Salads, up to “for fifteen,” then do the math. Or, By the Pound, choose from 10 popular Greek offerings. Order your Pastitso or Mousaka By the Pan. By the Platter comes six delectables including Keftedes and Greek-a-Dillas or their Greek Combo. By the Portion, choose from five more recipes. Then, of course there’s dessert trays from Bakalava to Tiramisu and their famed Rice Pudding to fussy pastries and traditional Greek cookies.