When you step behind the curtain and into the kitchen at Garden City’s newest Mediterranean-inspired eatery Go Greek, it’s what you won’t find that might surprise you the most. There is no freezer in sight, or a microwave for that matter. The minimalist, modern kitchen does not even employ a can opener. And owner, Tom Matheos wouldn’t have it any other way. His philosophy is as straightforward as his refined, authentic menu: “Simple.”
When Matheos opened the fast-casual restaurant with his wife, Gabriella, in May the couple infused their passion for traditional Greek cooking with an unwavering commitment to quality ingredients, including non-GMO and antibiotic-free meats, which are prepared daily and never frozen. Everything from the hand-selected spices to the fresh beans and olive oil (that is direct from the Matheos’ family-operated farm in Greece) are carefully chosen to ensure this high standard is met. “We feed people like this is our home,” Gabriella said. “That’s why we use only the best.”
It’s because of the Matheos’ dedication to authenticity and properly sourced ingredients that lamb gyros are noticeably absent from the menu. The Matheos’ reasoning is two fold. First, most of the lamb served gyro-style in the United States is processed and is comprised of little actual lamb meat. The rest is filler, a faux pas in Tom’s eyes. “The gyro cone that everybody knows is packed with a lot filler, a lot of preservatives,” he said. “It is a mystery meat and you don’t really know what you’re eating. I am trying to reverse that trend.” Second, while perhaps surprising to many Americans who associate lamb with gyros, chicken and pork are the traditional gyro meats served in Greece. Go Greek offers chicken, pork and vegetarian gyros. Naturally, the meat is hand-stacked and void of additives. Gyros are also served with fries in pita—another nod to traditional Greek preparation.
There is an option for those craving lamb. Having recently found a domestic lamb proprietor, the Matheos’ are now offering lamb souvlaki in addition to other Greek favorites: dolmades, tzatziki and spankokopita to name a few. Local wine and beer as well as wine and beer made in Greece top off the dishes.
Taking a page from his uncle, who owns The Olympia Diner in Deer Park, Tom intentionally scales back his menu. “[My uncle] was revolutionary in trying to change they way diners work as far as downscaling the menu and bring up their freshness,” Tom said. “Diners are known for their 15 or 20 page menus. My uncle changed that thought in the early nineties. We got rid of all the extra bells and whistles on the diner menu. That always stuck out in my mind. Simple. My menu just that: simple. It gets to the heart of what Greek food is.”
Keeping in line with this simple approach to food, the Matheos’ dedication doesn’t stop in the kitchen. Go Greek aims to “go green by 2017,” reducing the restaurant’s footprint to the smallest amount possible. The couple has taken steps toward reaching this goal by using biodegradable packaging and decorating with reclaimed wood sourced from excess pallets from a local solar panel company.
Perhaps the only thing more important to the Matheos’ than simple, high quality ingredients and eco-friendly practices is the couple’s commitment to customer service. “We want people to come and enjoy our fresh food and know that we care about their experience,” Gabriella said. “We want people to feel that this is a place they can come, not just for food, but for a welcoming atmosphere.”