Make us your home page
Instagram

Tarpon Springs' former Pappas restaurant reopens under new name

TARPON SPRINGS — Chris Maillis was crushed when the once world-renowned Pappas Riverside Restaurant closed in September 2005.

He had spent 23 years there as a busboy, a food runner, bartender and manager at the landmark Greek cuisine restaurant on the Sponge Docks. "To walk out of here, turning in the keys, was the worst feeling in the world," said Maillis, 45.

But Maillis is back and so is the restaurant that was started by Louis M. Pappas, an immigrant from Sparta, Greece, in 1925.

While the name has changed to the Riverside Grille House, the building still has the same curved archways and magnificent view of the Anclote River.

And the new owners want to keep a lot of the history while building a new brand. "We are open and we are back," said Maillis, a Tarpon Springs native who is now assistant general manager of the Riverside Grille House. "It's an amazing feeling."

The restaurant reopened Nov. 19. It currently opens for lunch and dinner and plans to add a Sunday brunch soon.

The new owners are Michael Lowe and Victor Holcomb, principals with East Lake LLC. They bought the 50,000-square-foot facility that sits at the entrance of the Sponge Docks in May 2006 for $6.25 million. For nearly three years, the building sat dormant. A portion of the facility reopened as a special events center in April 2009.

Lowe, 67, said it was to their advantage to keep the restaurant closed. It gave them time to get a good understanding of the building's history.

"The objective of the whole puzzle is to maintain the old and marry it with the new," said Lowe, who also owns Captain Jack's across the Anclote River and Catches in New Port Richey. "People come in with memories and based on those memories we got a feel for the fabric and what it meant to people. It's to our advantage to keep the history."

Louis M. Pappas made his Greek salad an American standard when he added a scoop of potato salad to the lettuce, feta cheese, tomatoes and raw peppers. It was something he did while serving as a cook in Gen. John J. Pershing's Army during World War I. He added a scoop of potato salad to help sustain the troops.

The potato salad and the restaurant continued to grow in worldwide repute and in 1975, the Pappas family built the current two-story structure that sits on 2 acres at 10 Dodecanese Blvd.

In 2002, the Pappases sold the restaurant to an ownership group that included a cousin. The group had plans to build a hotel but the restaurant and that effort floundered. The group sold the building to Lowe and Holcomb.

"I wish Mike Lowe all the luck in the world, but it has nothing to do with the Pappas family," said Louis Pappas, 54, whose grandfather started the restaurant. "I hope they carry on the tradition of good quality food for the sake of the town and the Sponge Docks."

City Manager Mark LeCouris said it's a positive to have the restaurant back. About 50 employees have been hired.

"That's the cornerstone of the docks," LeCouris said. "It's better for it to be a restaurant than an empty shell of a building. It's important for the whole docks area for that to be a vibrant business."

That's also the hope of Lowe, who scrapped the idea of trying to add a hotel to the property after market studies determined the move would be a drastic mistake.

Lowe plans to keep some of the traditional Greek dishes while adding a few staples of his own. There will be good steaks and fresh seafood, Lowe said.

More than $1 million has been invested in upgrading the facility.

That includes the steel beams needed to support the roof that has been turned into an outdoor dining area called the Veranda. The rooftop, which has its own bar, provides an unobstructed view of the city and the Sponge Docks.

The ceiling was raised a bit, but the restaurant maintains the original historic characteristics.

The Spartan and Olympian rooms are still two of the four meeting rooms. The original signs mark them. The huge statue of a sponge diver is still there. Much of the restaurant's original art still hangs on the walls.

"You can't build something like this today," Lowe said, while standing on the rooftop. "It's truly a treasure."

But Lowe is still nervous about the undertaking. "It's like a Broadway play," he said. "Every day before you open, you are nervous."

Contact Demorris A. Lee at [email protected] or (727) 445-4174.

.fast facts

To learn more

For information on the Riverside Grille House, visit www.theriver

sidevenue.com.

Tarpon Springs' former Pappas restaurant reopens under new name 11/30/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 30, 2010 7:55pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Black entrepreneur says city stiffing him on project after he endorsed Rick Baker

    News

    ST. PETERSBURG — A prominent African-American resident says his endorsement of mayoral candidate Rick Baker has led city officials to freeze him out of a major construction project along the historic "Deuces" stretch of 22nd Street S.

  2. Sen. Nelson urges FEMA to examine high number of denied flood claims

    Banking

    Sen. Bill Nelson urged FEMA on Tuesday to ensure fairness, proper oversight and transparency in processing Hurricane Irma aid following a report by the Palm Beach Post that 90 percent of Irma claims under the National Flood Insurance Program had been denied.

    Sen. Bill Nelson is calling for FEMA to ensure the flood claims process post-Hurricane Irma is fair and ethical following reports that 90 percent of claims under the National Flood Insurance Program were denied. | [Times file photo]
  3. Amazon expands in Tampa with Pop-Up shop in International Plaza

    Retail

    TAMPA — A new retailer known largely for its online presence has popped up at International Plaza and Bay Street.

    Shoppers walk past the new Amazon kiosk Tuesday at the International Plaza in Tampa. The kiosk, which opened last month, offers shoppers an opportunity to touch and play with some of the products that Amazon offers.
[CHRIS URSO   |   Times]

  4. Study: Florida has fourth-most competitive tax code

    Banking

    Florida's tax code is the fourth most competitive in the country, according to a study released Tuesday by nonprofit group Tax Foundation.

    Florida has the fourth-most competitive tax code, a study by the Tax Foundation said. Pictured is  Riley Holmes, III, H&R Block tax specialist, helping a client with their tax return in April. | [SCOTT KEELER, Times]
  5. Trigaux: On new Forbes 400 list of U.S. billionaires, 35 now call Florida their home

    Personal Finance

    The latest Forbes 400 richest people in America was unveiled Tuesday, with 35 billionaires on that list calling Florida home. That's actually down from 40 Florida billionaires listed last year when a full 10 percent listed declared they were Floridians by residence.

    Edward DeBartolo, Jr., shopping center developer and  former San Francisco 49ers Owner, posed with his bronze bust last year during the NFL Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony in Canton, Ohio. DeBartolo remains the wealthiest person in Tampa Bay according to the Forbes 400 list released Tuesday. 
[Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images]