It's been four months since new owner (and restaurant world rookie) Maria Gibson took over the space at 1035 Lincoln Street that used to be Leenah's Deli and turned it into Melita's Greek Cafe and Market. And while there might be a lot of bad news right now in the restaurant industry and the larger world in general, Gibson, for one, seems to be doing pretty well.
"People have noticed the changes," she told me when we talked earlier today, after a couple days of playing phone-tag. She's been busy. People have been responding well to the changes she's made--both structural (getting more light in the place, more effectively separating the market shelves from the dining room and "giving it more of a homey feel," according to Gibson) and conceptual.
"I've re-emphasized as a Greek restaurant," she explained, having brought the space back from the rather American deli and greasy spoon that Leenah's (and Diana's before that) had become, and refocusing on the Greek food (lemon chicken, avgolemono soup) and Greek market items (olive oil and oregano from Greece, grape leaves and mahlep) that had once set the place apart.
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Gibson was in marketing and advertising before finding her way to the restaurant game. "I wanted to leave corporate America and do my own thing," she said. And because she'd known Leenah's (as a customer) during its brief tenure in the space, when the place came on the market, she jumped. Now, four months later, she's pleased with how things have gone, happy with her market full of Greek cheeses and black cherry pits and oregano, with her Greek menu. We chatted for a while about how her customers have been reacting to the changes, how the neighborhood has been supporting her. And just as we were wrapping up, she made sure I got her name right, the full name of the restaurant, and reminded me to tell people about the website, melitasgreekcafe.com.
So maybe she hasn't yet strayed so far from her advertising and marketing roots after all. -- Jason Sheehan