A restaurant that aims to help you “Discover Your Inner Greek” has plans to open in space now under renovation on Broadway in downtown Columbus.
Columbus couple Dan and Nicky Lopez hope to make the debut of the eatery called The Simple Greek in late February or early March. The location is at 1228 Broadway, which is next door to the Kilwins confectionery and ice cream store.
“The Simple Greek is a newer concept that is in the fast-casual environment,” Dan Lopez said Thursday on the reason for choosing the Mediterranean-style flavor for their restaurant, which is part of a small, but growing chain led by entrepreneur Marcus Lemonis. There are more than dozen locations now open, with a dozen or so on the way, including that of the Lopez’s, which will be the first in Georgia.
“Obviously, there’s a trend on healthy living and healthy food choices,” Dan Lopez said. “Research shows that’s where the growth is, and that appeals to a broader group of customers. It’s not just the Millennials and the new-college generation, but it expands off previous generations. So it has a broader reach.”
The Simple Greek uses a build-your-own assembly line format that allows customers to choose specifically what they want to eat in a bowl or pita wrap. Employees handle that part of the process.
The menu includes traditional gyro, chicken gyro, grilled steak and grilled chicken. There are vegetable and cheese toppings, followed by a choice of sauces which include hummus, garlic cream, tzatziki and Greek dressing. The finishing touch is a dash of sea salt or oregano, or perhaps a splash of olive oil or vinegar.
Sides include dolmades, tiropita, village salad, garlic green beans, soup, lemonis potatos, hummus and pita, and a spinach pie called spanakopita. Desserts offered are rizogalo (rice pudding), baklava and baklava cheesecake. There’s also Greek yogurt made from goat and cow milk.
Lopez said he and his wife and father-in-law traveled multiple times to Pennsylvania, where The Simple Greek is headquartered, to get a taste of their potential business venture before making the final decision to move forward. Asked Thursday what her favorite food item is on the menu, Nicky responded that she loves most of it.
“But we have a couple of things that I’m really excited about,” said the part-time registered nurse who will give that up to manage the eatery when it opens. “The gyro with the lamb is one of my favorites, and then we have these really amazing French fries. They have some good feta cheese on them. They’re just different and they’re really good.”
The Simple Greek will be located on the ground floor of a three-story building now under renovation by Columbus businessman and developer John Teeples. The restaurant will occupy about 3,000 square feet — most of the first floor of the building —which Teeples acquired about four years ago. A number of prospective restaurant owners have inquired about leasing the space, he said.
“We looked at a number of things there, but this just seemed like a great fit for downtown,” Teeples said. “It is something a little different.”
The top two floors will include nine loft apartments ranging from 800 to 1,300 square feet, the developer said. The rents for the apartments, which should be available by the end of the year, have not been set yet.
Lopez, who works as a data transformation director at Aflac, and his wife said they are very excited to be joining the growth in the downtown area. Nicky Lopez is a Columbus native who remembers when the central business district on and around Broadway wasn’t a very energetic place to hang out. That has changed dramatically, she said.
“More specialty restaurants started opening and bringing a whole new crowd downtown,” she said. “We’re just excited to start an adventure and be part of it and watch the growth in downtown Columbus.”
Dan Lopez said he loves the vibe that downtown now has, with it morphing from a small-town atmosphere a decade ago when he first met his wife to one much more vibrant, but still maintaining a sense of community.
“When you talk to folks like John Teeples, Buddy Nelms and Jason Gamache, they really want it to be growing, but not lose the community feel to it,” he said. “So it still has that balance, which is very appealing.”