New Local Greek Restaurant on Leigh Avenue Offers Special Recipes and Delicious Dining
SMALL BITES, BIG SMILES: “I thought Princeton would be a great opportunity for a Greek restaurant. There’s nothing like us here, and I’m so encouraged. Business is great, and people love what we’re doing.” Tony Kanterakis, owner of Local Greek, is shown in his new restaurant on Leigh Avenue.
By Jean Stratton
Local Greek, the new restaurant at 44 Leigh Avenue, is off to a great start. Customers are lining up to try the special Greek dishes, and they are coming in all day and into the evening.
“Breakfast is very popular. In fact, it’s actually even busier than dinner right now,” says owner Tony Kanterakis. “People love the Greek-style breakfast, especially the free range eggs in the pan, we serve every day.”
Breakfast, lunch, brunch, dinner, take-out, catering, and private parties are all available at the restaurant, which opened in mid November.
“Even in the short time we’ve been open, we have had several private parties, and we also have catering orders,” adds Kanterakis.
Place in Princeton
Although his previous career was in financial planning and medical services, Kanterakis points out that he has a strong tie to the restaurant business. “My mom has had a restaurant and bakery in Highland Park, and I started working there in 2005. I always liked Greek cooking, and I decided to change careers because I really liked being out there with people and interacting with them. I thought this was a chance to make people happy.
“Also, a lot of people from Princeton came to the Highland Park restaurant, and they said they wished we could have a place in Princeton. So here we are!”
After exploring a number of possibilities, Kanterakis decided to open in the Leigh Avenue site, which had become available. “It was a perfect location, and the building also had an existing kitchen. And I think this is a great neighborhood. People are calling it ‘The Brooklyn of Today,’ with its mix of people of different backgrounds, and the blend of business and residential. I really wanted it to be a friendly place with great food.”
Opening within his planned time frame was a challenge, he adds. He and his team worked hard to get everything ready in a short amount of time. “My cousin Emmanuel Kanterakis is an architect and has the NEA Construction Company. He helped me, and we completely renovated the building. Basically, in three weeks, we designed, built, created the menu, got the staff, and opened!”
Kanterakis wanted the menu to be special and reflect the overall tasty goodness of Greek cuisine. “Greek food is very healthy,” he explains. “It’s the Mediterranean diet, and everything is very fresh and locally sourced. We have family recipes from my mother and grandmother. My parents were both born in Greece, and I am first generation in the U.S.”
Customers are coming in throughout the day, and enjoying breakfast, lunch, and dinner, he points out. “Many people stop in on their way to work, get coffee and a pastry.”
For those who can spend more time in the morning, especially on weekends, a special treat awaits. “We have wonderful egg dishes — local free range eggs served in the pan, accompanied by our homemade bread and Greek homestyle potatoes,” Kanterakis said.
Popular breakfast choices include Tomato Fresco — free range eggs with fresh local tomato puree, and organic olive oil, topped with kasseri and feta cheese; and The Super Greek, featuring free range eggs, onions, cherry tomatoes, kalamata olives, mushrooms, and avocado, drizzled with homemade ouzo sauce.
Also, Local Spinach Feta Omelette with fresh spinach, Greek feta, cherry tomatoes, onions, and Greek leeks; and The Greek Benedict, with barley rusks topped with tomato, avocado, free range eggs, and Greek-style sauce.
In addition, waffles, Greek-style pancakes, and The Toast, Greek-style focaccia, filled with kasseri cheese, smoked local ham, tomatoes, and a free range sunny side up egg are very popular breakfast choices.
Tony Kanterakis also points out that these breakfasts are available throughout the day and evening.
Sandwiches and salads are in demand, including special Local Greek Salads, such as The Village (Horiatiki) with local tomatoes, cucumber, Greek pepper, barley rusk, feta, kalamata olives, and fresh onions, topped with organic Greek live oil and vinegar; also, the Kipos Salad with local kale, avocado, fresh oranges, dried figs, and cashews, topped with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and Greek honey.
Homemade Cheese Bread
Sandwiches include the Tryo Panini: homemade cheese bread filled with kasseri cheese, smoked ham, local tomato, arugula, and special Greek spread; and Greek Pita with choice of pork, chicken, or veggies, filled with local tomato, tzatziki, and fresh herbs.
“We also have a great local burger,” reports Kanterakis. “It’s an organic beef patty, with caramelized onions, local tomatoes, pickles, and barbecue sauce on our homemade bun.”
Other popular specialties are Spanokopita, the puff pastry filled with fresh local spinach, leeks, onions, silk, and Greek feta cheese; Kolokithopita, puff pastry filled with zucchini, feta, and Greek herbs; also, Prasopita, filo dough filled with potato and leeks — among many other choices.
Small Bites, Big Smiles!
Local Greek is especially noted for its selection of Meze (Greek tapas) or smaller plates which can be shared. “We suggest ordering two or three per table,” explains Kanterakis.
Popular choices include Mousaka, with béchamel sauce, eggplant, ground beef, and organic olive oil; Kokinisto — Greek-style beef stew with tomato fresco and Greek herbs; Mediterra Chicken, with organic chicken, Greek honey, pineapple, peppers, and olive oil, finished with tomatoes and oranges; and Pastitsada, Greek pasta topped with beef tips, fresh tomato sauce, and kefalotiri.
Desserts include the popular Baklava with filo dough filled with crushed almonds and walnuts, topped with Greek honey; Galaktobouriko, filo dough filled with semolina custard, topped with Greek honey; and Karidopita, Greek-style walnut cake. These are just a sampling of the many “sweet” choices.
“The pastries and our bread are made fresh daily,” notes Kanterakis, “and we are especially known for our great coffee. Our terrific espresso is from Milano — the best in the world!”
Prices cover a range, with puff pastries from $6.95, sandwiches from $9.95, salads from $11.95, and tapas from $10.95.
In addition to the restaurant, Local Greek offers a market where a variety of items can be purchased. Greek beans, cookies, pasta, coffee, baked bagels, imported Greek cheese, and various puffed pastries are all available.
The response from the public has been even more enthusiastic than Kanterakis expected. “For example,” he reports, “we already have regular customers, even in this short time. One customer has come for breakfast and dinner on the same day. So far, all the customers are Princetonians. It’s just a real cross section, with people from the University, students, business people, and residents in the area. And it’s families and all ages.”
“I love the warm and friendly atmosphere,” notes Princeton resident Donna Kasmer, who recently made her first visit to Local Greek. “The staff is lovely, and the food is excellent. A friend suggested we come, and you can be sure we’ll be back again!”
Local Greek seats 55, and is open Tuesday through Thursday 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday 7:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., Saturday 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Sunday 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Reservations are recommended, especially on weekends.
Welcoming more diners to Local Greek is Tony Kanterakis’s goal.
“We always want to make people feel welcome, and we want to be the neighborhood place for them to come for great food in a friendly atmosphere, where they can spend time together.
“We look forward to growing, and having even more customers who want to enjoy our great food and warm atmosphere. We even have a choice of long farm-style tables where people can all sit together and make new friends.”
(609) 285-2969. Website: localgreeknj.com.