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Meet Nicholas Kotselas of Olympic Cafe in North Park

Today we’d like to introduce you to Nicholas Kotselas.

Nicholas, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
My father and grandmother started the Olympic Cafe in 1985 and it quickly become a staple for families and locals. My father met my mother at the restaurant several years after opening, she went on to introduce breakfast and her homemade desserts which were not offered previously. I started working there about 13 years ago, I am 24, so I started quite young. I was one of three brothers that found the restaurant business most interesting and I have pursued it, although you can find us all there on occasion.

Last December, we had to close our doors at our former location after 31 long years. We were able to move into a free standing building right next door and after 6 months of delays between design, permits, and inspections we finally opened this May. With the move I have become a formal part owner and run the restaurant alongside both my parents. It is not uncommon to see three or four of us there for a dinner service. (My Yia Yia often stops by to help.)

The new location is beautiful. It was designed by my father who took inspirations from his younger years when he lived in Greece. It is designed to look like a traditional Greek tavern, a refreshing departure from the gaudy Greek restaurants we have come accustomed to featuring busts of Socrates and fake columns. We are so glad that we can partake in this improvement of the North Park neighborhood, one that we have been serving for so long.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
The greatest obstacle was certainly the big move we recently made. I have a picture of sign we posted on our old restaurant on December 6th 2016, our last day of business, that said we would be opening next door in “a few weeks”. We quickly realized a few weeks would be a few months, a few months then turned to half a year. There were times we questioned whether we would ever open at all.

We opened May 1st, not knowing what to expect. We were completely overloaded with customers we hadn’t seen since the New Year. The support of all these people made every grueling minute of the prior six months worth it.

Please tell us about Olympic Cafe.
We are a family run business. My mom hand bakes every dessert in house. My grandmother wrote nearly every recipe when we opened in 1985, she learned those recipes from her grandmother, those go back nearly 100 years now. My dad takes it pretty easy these days but you can almost always find him drinking his coffee chatting with guests, many of which have become his good friends. I am there daily and handle day to day management, caterings, the website, and more but most people know me as the kid who served tables 10 years ago and has since “grown up”.

We are known for providing good, fresh, and healthy food for an affordable price. My family works hard to keep costs down for our customers and the portions are very generous. For these reasons we have become a favorite for families who want to feed themselves and their children. Since moving to our newer, nicer location, we now offer all of these things with a candlelight dinner on our nice patio so we have become quite the date spot it seems.

Still, the most important thing is that once any guest walks in through the door they will feel like family. We really enjoy what we do and I think it shows.

If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
Done the construction differently. It was the first time we had to do it so we didn’t know the ropes. Now I feel confident we could move restaurants in less than a month if we had to. Problem is we don’t intend to leave for at least another 30 years and by then I’m sure we will have forgotten and will need to learn again…

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Image Credit:
Nicholas Kotselas

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3 Comments

  1. Mac

    January 5, 2018 at 8:36 am

    I love going to Olympic it has great food but better than this is the whole family.
    I call this my place.

  2. Chuck Rickman

    January 6, 2018 at 6:43 pm

    Great article. I eat here very often and just love it. Such wonderful tasty food and friendly staff.

  3. Julie Lanner

    May 23, 2018 at 5:50 am

    Never had a bad meal there. Always friendly. The pork souvlaki is to die for. The lemon chicken is the best ever. I took my older sister to Olympic. She has lived all over the world (retired Naval officer)and she said it was the best lemon chicken she ever had. Crazy good. The Saganaki is great fun, and don’t get me started on the desserts. Nick is efficient and kind and Gramma is a sweety. Great coffee. They accommodate my wheelchair.

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