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.”

Salata

November 1st, 2018

Yasmin and John David

Local restaurant is becoming national chain

By Xander Thomas

It seems that for the past few years, eating healthy has been somewhat of a challenge for busy people. Business professionals, college students, single parents and so many more have had the dilemma of how to eat quick and/or cheap but also not consume too many calories or fill their diet with too many fats.

“We know what’s going on in the food industry, we know what’s going on with nutrition, we can offer you those healthy options that are not going to be your everyday soup and salad bar,” said Salata franchise owner for the Bay Area, Yasmin David.

Salata – which loosely translated means salad — is what Yasmin refers to as a “fast casual” restaurant; it has most of the perks of a fast food restaurant, quick, cheap and easy, without the negative connotation connected with those words. A person on the go can run in, grab some food and go about a busy day, or have a nice atmosphere to sit and eat a tasty meal alone while working. Or eat with friends and still have a good time without the regret and brick-in-the-stomach feeling later.

“The way people are eating and dining is very, very different from the way they used to dine,” Yasmin said. “People don’t necessarily want fast food because of the stigma and the health concerns revolving around it, but they want something fast.”

The growing chain was born right here in Houston, Texas in 2005.

Salata co-founder, Berge Simonian owned a downtown tunnel restaurant, and he noticed that his guests were beginning to favor fresher, healthier options more and more with his ancillary offering – a side salad bar. From this, he and his brother-in-law Tony opened the first, of the now national, sensation that is known as Salata.

Salata is the only salad concept that is gluten-free certified and completely customizable. Guests choose from an array of lettuces, vegetables, fruits, cheeses, seeds, nuts, chicken, seafood and vegan proteins, and all of Salata’s dressings, soups and sauces are house-made and preservative-free. The restaurant also offers a selection of signature teas and lemonades, which are made in-store as well.

“All of our vegetables and fruits are chopped daily here in our restaurant. The protein selection is consistently fresh, lean and sourced from local farms. What sets us apart has always been our house-made dressings that are created daily in our brand new Houston-based headquarters’ commissary and shipped out to each store.

Yasmin’s husband, John, discovered Salata while at work, and according to her, he ate there every day and sometimes twice a day before convincing her to try it… but she was less than excited to go out and pay for a salad, which she thought was something that she could easily make at home. She was surprised to learn that she was wrong. “One day, on my day off, I went up and met him for lunch. We had Salata” she said. “I tried it and I was like ‘oh my gosh, this is crazy good!’” she recalled with a fondness in her voice.

Before long, the couple were looking into franchise opportunities. They chose Bay Area, initially opening only one store in 2014, and eventually realized that their territory could take on a few more. They now own four – Clear Lake, Friendswood, League City, and Pasadena – locations in the area, and two in North Houston (Kingwood & Generation Park).

Yasmin says that it is the dressings that keep people coming back, adding

“We are excited to expand our menu and dressing portfolio with the hiring of a nutritionist and chef.”

One of the things Yasmin says she loves about the company is the way it adapts to new audiences. One example of this can be seen at the League City store with the unveiling of the new logo, interior design and the first wine on tap system. “The Pinnacle Park development will soon transform into a destination Town Center for League City and we are excited to participate in creating a lifestyle for this community. We look forward to hosting happy hours for our guests to try the wine on tap. We also have a newly installed “selfie wall” that’s perfect for those ever popular Instagram moments.”

Yasmin adds, “Being a part of the community in each of our locations is key to our success. We are grateful to have always been welcomed with open arms and look forward to being active participants in our growing communities.”