Expand Your Palate at Sokol’s Greek Deli and Café

June 1st, 2019

Owner Chris Sokol in front of his beautiful Greek mural on the wall of Sokol’s Greek Deli

By Xander Thomas

Even with the saturation of restaurants in the Clear Lake area, it can still be a difficult task to find places based around better eating, but there are still a few that have your best interest in mind.

“I go hand pick my own tomatoes, onions, lettuce, all that stuff, that way you don’t get whatever stuff any other restaurants get,” said Sokol’s Greek Deli and Café owner, Chris Sokol. “It is a lot more time consuming, but we’re kind of known for the healthier salads and stuff like that.”

The Greek deli has been in its current location at 2410 Bay Area Blvd. for about six years, but was renamed Sokol’s about five years ago when Chris took over ownership. While he did use a lot of the previous owner’s recipes and ideas, he also took from what he learned in his youth.

“Mostly family recipes, my own recipes, I’m a big foodie so I like to integrate a lot of weird, different specials.”

He says that a lot of his specials were so well loved, and so requested, that they made it onto the regular menu. He learned a lot about how to cook because when he was growing up, his parents would let him and his sister eat whatever they wanted, but they had to cook it themselves; there was no going to grab fast food.

Chris likes opening up peoples’ minds to different foods and helping expand their palates, and that in this area, most have just not been privileged enough to have certain things prepared properly.

“Around here a lot of people tend to say that lamb is disgusting or nasty cause they haven’t had it cooked right,” he said confidently. “Usually they’ll say wow this is way better than beef.”

Even if you think you are not a fan of lamb, the slow-cooked lamb ribs are a must when visiting his restaurant.

Chris says that because they use extra virgin olive oil for just about everything, he imports an entire ship load, around 6,000 lbs once a year. Not only is it just a major staple of Greek cuisine, though, it is also better for you than more other types of oils typically used to cook with.

“We make our own salad dressing, which we sell a lot of, and consists of just extra virgin olive oil and four different vinegars and there’s absolutely zero sugar or additives to it,” he said.

This isn’t the only thing that makes his dishes healthier than most other places in the area.

Along with using a better oil, Chris prefers better ingredients for almost all of his dishes, including a well-loved sauce in the native foods, the tzatziki sauce. While many places will use sour cream, he prefers low-fat Greek yogurt for lighter guilt free eating with just as much flavor.

“The trend nowadays everyone wants the organic or non-GMO stuff like that and a lot of Greek food just happens to fall in that line.”

Chris and his sister grew up mostly in the British school system, and have lived in Indonesia and Malaysia, and around high school, landed in Texas for most of their adult lives. Chris just happened to choose our Clear Lake area to offer us some of his authentic cuisine.

He is even an admirer of the space programs and the astronauts, and has adorned the place in various NASA items.

“I have a lot of memorabilia from collecting it as I was younger, and astronauts come by here and give signed stuff for me,” he said, “It was really cool to have a restaurant right on Space Center and Bay Area.”

Boondoggles Celebrates 20 Years

June 1st, 2018

Boondoggles Pub, the locally owned and operated gathering spot known for good times, freshly poured draft beers and award-winning wood-fired pizza, will commemorate its 20th year in the Clear Lake area in June 2018. In conjunction with the anniversary, the pub will host a community celebration, open to the public, on Saturday, June 30, with live music, food and brew, door prizes and 20th anniversary collectors’ t-shirts and posters.

Picture Book, a Houston Press Music Awards “Best Cover Band” nominee that celebrates the music of the British Invasion as well as American Rock & Roll, will headline the live music lineup on the parking lot, with performances by Jose Ortega & Lex Kuhl. Twenty days of 20th anniversary specials will follow, featuring 1998 happy hour prices through July 20. Daily specials will include a free beer for Mug Club members, “Free Drink Friday” (limit one), a free children’s waffle, buy-one-get-one pizza specials and more.

Originally a boat engine repair shop, Boondoggles’ building was meticulously transformed, guided by the owner’s vision, his quest for architectural preservation and a strict budget. Over the course of an entire year, he personally collected and stored salvageable items from demolition projects around the local area, other parts of the country, and as far away as England.

Challenging and rewarding, the preservation effort brought forth an environmentally green structure with historic character and a charming Old-World feel.

Boondoggles quickly became a source of local pride, introducing the area to a superb beer delivery system of nearly 50 taps and a secret dough recipe that earned accolades for pizza baked in the pub’s brick wood-fired oven, where oak and mesquite produce temperatures of over 500 degrees. The now famous “Mug Club” was introduced at the main bar. Patrons purchase solid pewter tankards, which are stored on hooks hanging from the ceiling, and fill them with their beverage of choice. The tankards hold several ounces more than a traditional pint and are engraved with any name a patron chooses—from NASA missions to pet dogs. Today, the Mug Club includes 1,500 members with another 100 mugs currently on order.

A steadfast community and customer focus has earned the pub a loyal following of locals and visitors alike. Out-of-this-world patrons include William “Shep” Shepard, commander of the first crew of the International Space Station (ISS). Flags and other items Shep took into space are prominently on display near the hostess stand. Astronaut Scott Kelly, who spent a record-breaking year in space aboard the ISS, chronicled his experiences and referenced Boondoggles in his book, Endurance. The U.S. record holder for the most days in space and first female, non-military Chief of the Astronaut Office, Peggy Whitson, is also a Boondoggles regular.

Boondoggles has always believed in giving back to the community. And when the community is shaken, the pub steps in. For several weeks amid the destruction and despair from Hurricanes Ike and Harvey, Boondoggles—without electricity to fuel its kitchen operation—fed local residents and work crews from its patio.

Four-legged patrons are also a familiar site on the patio. Inspiring a dog-friendly atmosphere, the owner’s boxer served as the pub’s original mascot and was immortalized in the Boondoggles logo. Each spring, Boondoggles sponsors the annual Woofstock event, a dog festival and fundraiser for Bay Area Pet Adoptions, recently generating more than $10,000 for the shelter.

“From the beginning, Boondoggles simply wanted to provide our customers with a comfortable and welcoming place to enjoy outstanding beer, food and service in a fun atmosphere,” says General Manager James Venezia. “Twenty years later, our goal remains the same. We look forward to serving our community for another 20 years.”

For more information, visit www.boondogglespub.com or follow Boondoggles on Facebook.