Prism Tastes: Meraki Greek Bistro
April 18, 2017
Meraki – [may-rah-kee] – Doing something with soul, creativity, or love — When you put “something of yourself” into what you’re doing, whatever it may be.
Hidden deep within Downtown Miami is a collection of food concepts so close to each other they nearly overlap. They’re a series of authentic houses, each a portal into a different part of the world. Stumbling across the nook, aptly named “The Village” on your way to something you can find virtually anywhere, your curiosity is peaked. The round and whitewashed doorway of a French-Tunisian cafe reels you in, the bright green and tiled roof of a Brazilian steakhouse makes you smile, the crisp contrast of blue and white catches your eye and it’s over. You’re definitely eating here.
Our first encounter with The Village was last year when we dove head-first into Alloy Bistro Gourmet but this time, our taste buds are dying to cue you in on their charming neighbors to the North (both culinarily and literally): Meraki Greek Bistro.
Let’s say you just came back from a Grecian vacation and a friend of yours asks for restaurant suggestions “but like, the real stuff, not the touristy stuff.” This is exactly the kind of place that would immediately come to mind. It cuts away the fluff (and the price that comes with it), to give you food that feels like home.
And home is exactly what Meraki symbolizes for co-owner, Alex Karavias. You can see it in the hanging plant decor and handmade wooden tables that his wife put together at four months pregnant. You can hear it in the traditional Greek music setting a rhythm to your conversation or the smells wafting from the kitchen. You experience it at their Sunday full-lamb roasts and even in the first bite of Saganaki.
If you spend enough time there, you’d think the view outside the window would be overlooking a secluded island in the Aegean sea, someone’s grandmother roasting your Souvlaki to order in the back. Meraki, like a true Grecian, regards hospitality as the highest of virtues, gladly taking in any wandering traveler and sharing a piece of their spirit with every plate.
Each dish is subtle and authentic. It’s not the pristinely plated, perfected crafted gourmet dish you’d hear Gordon Ramsay praise, it’s the dish he couldn’t wait to come home to after a long day–it’s comfort food for the soul, the Greek way. After moving here 16 years ago, working at an impressive list of restaurants and bars both on and off the mainland, Alex noticed a change from Miami as the seasonal city to the Miami with year-round support. Noticing a need for real and affordable fare, he opened Freshko for a first step in the fast-casual realm. Eventually, he joined forces with fellow countryman, Executive Chef Giannis Kotsos and Meraki Greek Bistro was born.
Using the chef’s roots in fruits and vegetables (his father owned a popular fresh produce stand in Greece), they created an atmosphere that revolves entirely on fresh, simple ingredients, putting their flavors center stage. We started with the Iced Freddo Cappuccino, easily one of the greatest in the city, and instantly became fans. Then attacked the Greek Nachos with vigor, a recipe Karavias’ wife developed during her pregnancy based on a craving she needed satisfying. The Trio of Spreads are every bit as perfect in consistency and flavor as they should be, and there’s no way we’ll let you go there without trying the Saganaki: flambéed Gruyere on a sizzling pan. Lightly seasoned Octopus up next, followed by Honey Sesame Cheese Puffs (“I’ll have what she’s having” is right)–and those are just the starters.
No lettuce in the Greek Salad would be intriguing to anyone who only knows the Americanized version, but as Karavias explained: “Lettuce has no flavor, it’s a fluff ingredient. Here, we only using the things that matter.” You’ll wonder why you ever liked the alternative. If you’re like us and are a fan of potatoes of all shapes and sizes, the Gyro Platter comes with melt-in-your-mouth roasted potatoes that you’ll talk about for days.
While we’re on the root vegetable subject, let’s talk about the Meraki Souvlaki Platter. First of all, it’s gargantuan; a feast for 5 at least. Towers of roasted lamb, chicken, bacon-wrapped chicken, pork, and vegetable kebabs are lounging atop a bed of freshly-cut fries now soaked in the juices of the aforementioned tower. It’s crazy.
End it with a slice of fall holidays a.k.a their Walnut Pie and the Ekmek Kadayifi, the fluffiest dessert you’ll have all year thanks to the base of strings of phyllo dough and the Chantilly cream on top. Sandwich it with another Cappuccino and pick up your Greek passport as you leave because you’re basically part of the family here. Brunches, happy hours, Mother’s and Father’s Day celebrations are to come at the culinary gem, and we can’t wait to be back.
All photos by Fujifilm Girl.