A retired orthodontist, Spiro Chaconas never contemplated one day successfully owning a 22-year-old Greek restaurant. Now he has two.
Spiro’s Greek Cafe, which opened at the Coronado Ferry Landing in 1998, is expanding into a new site in the old Hard Rock Cafe space at 909 Prospect St., Unit 100B, in the Village of La Jolla.
Chaconas purchased his new eatery site in December and has been remodeling it ever since. Spiro’s Mediterranean Cuisine in La Jolla should open in early October.
“We’re going to emphasize Mediterranean cuisine in La Jolla,” said Chaconas. “Mediterranean is the key word for healthy foods nowadays. We use a lot of olive oil, the healthiest oil there is. We’re also going to serve seafood items like salmon, halibut, and sea bass. We have organically grown products that come directly from Sparta, Greece, that we use in our foods and also sell as a product.”
Added Chaconas, “We’ve always been known for having top-quality food. For instance, we have seven different grades of gyro meat, and we’re the only Greek restaurant in California that provides chicken gyro meat, which is more expensive and has been a big hit. The prices are very affordable, and our portions are very large, to a point where most people have to take something home in a doggy bag.”
Chaconas said his new La Jolla menu will be similar to his old Coronado menu. “We’ll have a few other Greek delicacies like stuffed tomatoes and peppers, as well as (flaming Greek cheese) Saganaki that you pour brandy over,” he said.
Both becoming a restaurateur and expanding into the Jewel, are fascinating stories, as told by Chaconas. He actually has his son Michael, a Point Loma Nazarene graduate with a business major, to thank for his new La Jolla address.
“He was looking for a second location for us,” said Spiro. “We looked at Imperial Beach and Downtown San Diego. He’s the one that found the La Jolla location. We’ve got the corner lot. It’s a great location. We have indoor seating and an outdoor patio. We’re able to go onto the street on Fay Avenue with 10 to 12 tables. We’ll also have some patio space next to the pancake place.”
Of how he became a restaurateur, Chaconas said, “I was the founding chairman of the Orthodontic Department at UCLA where I taught and practiced for 27 years before retiring in 1995. I married my wife Nancy at the Greek Island of Corfu in a 500-year-old church. That’s where my wife got the idea of opening a Greek restaurant after she’d sampled the cuisine in Greece. After we moved to Coronado from Los Angeles, I saw this one space that was boarded up at the Ferry Landing. I asked if we could open a seafood restaurant there, and they told me no, there were several seafood restaurants in the area.
“So then I asked, ‘How about (my) opening a Greek restaurant?’” continued Chaconas. “They (landlord) said OK. I funded the restaurant with $70,000 thinking, ‘I should kick myself in the pants, 90% of restaurants close after the first year.' It took me only three or four months to get my $70,000 back because it was a tremendous success.”
Chaconas said he and his restaurants give back to the community. “We’ve given to the Coronado Schools Foundation,” he said. “We feel that as the community is good to us, that we want to give back to the community as well.”
Spiro’s Mediterranean Cuisine will be open for lunch and dinner. For more information, visit spirosgreekcafe.com.