A LOOK INSIDE THE GREEK BY ANATOLI FROM RESTAURANTEUR IANI MAKRISAugust 30, 2019
The Greek by Anatoli: A place where pairing Greek food with hip hop makes sense.
Everything, from the way their kitchen produces incredibly tasty food, the traditional-but-untraditional decor, and the riotous vibes that pump out of the front doors and onto the Yaletown and Gastown sidewalks every weekend speaks to the owners’ attitudes. They’re fun-loving, caring people from an energetic Greek family and they know — to say the least — how to have a great time.
We spoke with Moe’s Ambassador Iani Makris, one of the part-owners and son of Anatoli Souvlaki’s founders, Thomas Makris and Helen Babalos. He shed light on why they use Moe’s for the furniture and decor, their creative edge in the business, and his own life goals.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you got involved in the industry?
Iani Makris: I was born and raised in a restaurant in North Vancouver, Anatoli Souvlaki. My parents started it the year I was born and we lived above it. I bought my father out of the business ten years ago, 5 years ago [my little brother, cousin, and I] decided to open a restaurant in Yaletown. We called it The Greek by Anatoli. Eventually, we took a shot at Gastown, too. So now we have three restaurants in Vancouver.
I’m a father of two — I delivered my second baby in the back of our car on the way to the hospital. I’m an avid hockey fan and player and I shop at Moe’s. They’ve been good to me for the 25 years I’ve known them.”
I know in the restaurant business a lot of what makes a restaurant successful is the food, but second is the environment. Tell us about the environment you created, what kind of design elements you’ve used?
IM: “We were lucky in our Yaletown and Gastown locations, there’s a lot of exposed brick which is true to both areas. Red and white isour theme, my grandmother is from Asia Minor (what is now Turkey), she’s from that area and it’s warmer, which makes sense with the red. We’ve kept that theme throughout two of the three restaurants. The sheep is also very fitting. It’s awesome, really cute.”
Here, Iani is referring to a sheep statue curated by Moe’s for The Greek. It’s a lighthearted, off-beat piece perfect for the restaurant’s fun-loving nature.
IM: “We wanted to open a restaurant where we can serve our Greek food with hip hop. A lot of inspiration comes from Mykonos — open-air bars with string lights running through the restaurant. You get that feeling when you walk in — that we cater to a fresher, younger crowd. We’re not your traditional blue and white cabana.”
What does family mean to you and how does that play a part in your career?
IM: “Growing up in a restaurant, my employees are like my family. I’ve been surrounded by family in the business as well as outside. Family is very important to us as Greeks. Have you seen My Big Fat Greek Wedding? It’s very true to Greek culture.
I was raised by my grandmother alongside my parents, so a lot of the recipes that come through this place are from her and my father.”
Iani goes on to tell us how his mother provides him with the ‘life goals’ of being as happy as her every day and to be a supportive, positive influence. She is, he describes, the entrepreneur of his family and is a strong woman and teacher. His younger brother, however, was the driving force behind getting Iani out of the kitchen, into the front-of-house and eventually owning their own place.
IM: “We have two chefs, one Cypriot and one Albanian, both trained in greek cooking. The Cypriot adds a lot of myth to our cooking, gives us a bit of an edge. So, Turkey, Greece, Cyprus and Albania — we’re a hybrid.”
The Turkish, Greek, Cypriot and Albanian influences do give The Greek a creative edge. Their food, as well as their ambience, make it a restaurant unlike any other in Vancouver. Their distinctive, homey-yet-urban vibe is, in part, created by the decor from Moe’s.
Moe’s can provide an edgy, modern look (as we’ve witnessed through Aleem Kassam’s eyes) or a warm, distinctive and fun vibe perfect for a place like The Greek. The takeaway? The pieces at Moe’s can be moulded to fit your place’s attitude.
You’ve got quite the history with Moe’s. Tell me what your relationship has been like with them?
IM: “I’m an entrepreneur and Moe Senior is quite the entrepreneur, too. I grew up with [his son] Moe Junior, we played baseball and hockey together, we had sleepovers. Now, I admire [Sarah and Moe Junior’s] business practices and hope to one day be in their position as well. Life goals.”
What’s the ambition right now?
IM: “The ambition should always be to expand and restaurants are all I know. But you should never look too far ahead — opening these three restaurants haven’t been without their challenges.”
Iani tells us he “works to live, not lives to work” — and this is obvious through his attitude, his love for his family, and the incredibly fun restaurants he’s fostered.