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Greek restaurant Samaria Café opens in downtown Tampa

DOWNTOWN — Georgia and Eftechios Xanthoudakis didn't even bother to take a vacation after they sold their popular Largo restaurant, Gathering, in July. Not in this economy.

The couple dived right into a new venture, a breakfast and lunch spot in downtown Tampa that they named Samaria Café after the famous gorge and national park in Eftechios' native Crete, Greece. They took over the space at 502 N Tampa St. (formerly occupied by 502 Sports Café) and renovated it in two months.

Samaria Café opened Sept. 25 with seating for more than 100, more than a dozen booths, four large flat-screen TVs and a kitchen that's open seven days a week.

The couple, Safety Harbor residents and restaurateurs for over 20 years in Largo and New York, opened in Tampa at the urging of several friends who work downtown, Georgia Xanthoudakis said.

"It's very competitive around here, but we want to make sure the customers are satisfied and that the prices are good enough," she said. "Our main thing for our restaurant is the cleanliness, the friendliness and the food being very fresh."

Samaria serves large portions of what the Xanthoudakises consider to be comfort food, including some Greek style dishes like a gyro omelet (gyro meat, tomatoes, feta and onions), Greek salad, a traditional gyro and baklava.

Breakfast is served all day and includes eggs Benedict with hollandaise sauce made from scratch, French toast made with Jewish challah bread, quiches and omelets. Lunch specialties include a smoked turkey sandwich with raspberry sauce on focaccia, Samaria salad (with gyro meat) and a Monte Cristo sandwich made with challah.

Almost every item is priced at $6.99 or below, a nod, Georgia Xanthoudakis said, to the economic climate. She describes herself as "very picky" and assumes customers are, too.

"You have to respect the customer," agreed Eftechios. "You give and get back."

Hours at Samaria Café are 6:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily.

Tot spot to reopen

The Little Gym in South Tampa closed in August after slower-than-expected growth made the business unsustainable for its owners. They said they had paid hefty construction and franchise fees just to get the doors open in early 2008.

Rather than liquidate, co-owners Marie Boutain and Susie DeCambra have found buyers for the popular gym, who will reopen it with a new name and a slightly different concept.

Duncan and Kirsten Round, owners of Philly Kids Gym in Philadelphia, are readying the space at 4251 Henderson Blvd. for a reopening as Tampa Kids Gym, scheduled for Nov. 30.

The Tampa location is no longer affiliated with the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based the Little Gym. Tampa Kids Gym will be similar to its predecessor, Duncan Round said, but "we are going to make a few minor upgrades to the style, warm it up a little bit," he said.

The Rounds, who have family in Indian Rocks Beach, found the business listed for sale online. "We thought it would be a good opportunity," he said. The Rounds plan to retain many of the Little Gym's employees.

The program lineup will be similar, serving children ages 4 months to 10 with gymnastics, dance, music, art and cheerleading classes.

The facility will be available for birthday parties on weekends. Round said he plans to add an after-school program and will offer Pilates classes for adults. The gym's Web site is tampakidsgym.com.

Do you know something that should be everybody's business? Call 226-3394 or e-mail sharonlginn@yahoo.com.

Greek restaurant Samaria Café opens in downtown Tampa 10/29/09 [Last modified: Thursday, October 29, 2009 4:31am]
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