History of Athens Market Taverna & Athens Market Cafe
It All Started in Greece
To truly understand the restaurant’s history, it is important to start from the beginning. More than two generations ago in the small mountain village of Levidi, Greece, the Pappasaphiropoulos family ran a restaurant and hotel in the town square. John and Soula Pappas raised five daughters in Levidi without running water or electricity. All of the girls grew up learning the family trade and the family never compromised in preparing authentic Greek food with only the freshest highest quality ingredients.
Of the five girls (Dena, Mary, Stella, Vickie and Athena), four have moved to San Diego and carried on the family tradition. That’s right, they all own restaurants!
Athens Market – Downtown San Diego
The Athens Market began downtown in the historic Gaslamp District of San Diego in the late 1950’s and was just that, a local market specializing in Greek ingredients.
It was not until the early 1970’s that Mary Pappas (as the name was shortened upon moving to America) bought the business from her Aunt Veneta. Recognizing that more and more people wanted prepared meals rather than just the ingredients, Mary began to cater to her regular customers by serving them some of the meals she prepared that day.
The special “Pappas family touch” that seems to make every dish delicious soon made the Athens Market a hotspot for downtown professionals wanting a good home cooked lunch. So Mary removed all remnants of the grocery store and created the “Athens Market Taverna” which was originally only open for lunch. With the help of her sister Stella and brother-in-law Dino Kalamaras, they opened the Taverna for dinner as well. Business grew quickly and by 1984 they needed more space.
Mary moved the business to its current downtown San Diego location on the corner of First and F Street. It quickly became recognized as the premiere restaurant in San Diego specializing in Greek Cuisine.
Athens Market Cafe – North San Diego Inland
Vickie also learned the art of cooking from her father in Greece so Vickie, and her husband Nick Anastasopoulos, expanded the business once again in 1994.
Nick and Vickie gave Northern San Diegans a chance to enjoy the family recipes when they opened the Athens Market Café in Carmel Mountain Ranch. It’s a “hands on” family business where it is rare to not find at least one family member hard at work. Whether it’s Vickie cooking up a storm and preparing meals in the kitchen, or Nick peeking his head out to help in the dining room while running the operations behind the scenes, one of them are usually there. It is not unusual to find their children Angie and John, along with the rest of the wait staff, eagerly serving guests great home-style Greek entrees.
The Anastasopoulos’, and their staff, go out of their way to make every guest feel welcomed into their Big Greek Family. The sounds of “OOPA” resonate throughout the restaurant when Saganaki is flambéed tableside, and the music of Greece envelopes the dining room throughout the day.
Award Winning Greek Food & Community Involvement
Both Athens Market locations have won numerous consumer awards for Best Greek Restaurant in San Diego. They’ve also been recognized for their community involvement and generosity towards their neighbors.