Chef Jody Adams (Rialto, Trade) is riding the wave of Greek cuisine in Boston. She opened Saloniki on Monday, her foray into the fast-casual sphere. It's a Fenway-side paradise of inventively stuffed pita, build-your-own brown rice bowls, classic soup and funky Greek wines on draft. And if it's a home run, Saloniki could pitch some additional locations. (We also hear Adams is working on a separate venture in Back Bay, though she won't dish on details.) We caught up with the full Saloniki team to suss out all the details on your new Hellenic hot spot.
4 Kilmarnock St.; 617-266-0001
Saloniki sees chef Jody Adams partnering with Jonathan Mendez (left) and Eric Papachristos (center), opening manager and co-owner of Adams' Atlantic Wharf restaurant TRADE. Papachristos was born in Boston, but raised in the Greek city of Thessaloniki until the age of nine (where the new venture derives its name). His parents eventually moved back to Massachusetts to open a small diner in Weymouth, where Papachristos cut his teeth in the food biz. He continued to spend summers in Greece with his grandparents, and the Saloniki team assures us the Fenway restaurant's recipes are all yiayia-approved. "Eric has the experience — and the critics — in his family," says Adams. "And they've all taste-tested the menu!"
The 60-seat restaurant is the work of South Boston–based Lana Design, bringing a traditional Greek color palette of white and blue to industrial-chic style: unfinished white oak walls, concrete floors and a marble counter. (The copper-plated exterior also has a 45-seat patio.) Running a fast-casual is a "balancing act," says Mendez, since any team with a Beard-winning chef doesn't want to sacrifice a certain standard for food. But from a business perspective, they say, there's definitely a still-growing market for quality quick-service cuisine.
"Bold, bright and balanced," is how Adams describes deftly done Greek cuisine. And it also describes the Herc, one of four composed options from the pita sandwiches that anchor the menu: here the housemade pita is filled with honey-garlic braised pork shoulder and combined with spicy whipped feta, Greek fries, tomatoes and onions. Why the sudden influx of Greek restaurants in Boston? "It's the peak of a wave, something that has been building for a long time," says Adams. "We know that Mediterranean cuisine is one of the healthiest cuisines, and it offers amazing flavors. It's also very simple — though sometimes what's simple is the hardest to do well. You really have to pay attention to everything."
Here's another composed pita, the Nico: lemon-oregano chicken with tzatziki, tomatoes, onions and Greek fries. The menu is designed to feel "Thessaloniki-specific" rather than generically Greek, says Adams. The city, Greek's second largest and often dubbed its "culture capital," is in the northern part of the country. It played a significant role in the Byzantine Empire, and the cuisine retains some Turkish and Middle Eastern influence.
Naturally, the team took a scouting trip to Thessaloniki and its surrounding small towns for some additional inspiration (and to get some feedback from Papachristos' family). Adams' husband, Ken Rivard, took photos during the trip that now adorn the space: including this image of an older gentleman taken at a kafeneío, the kind of neighborhood joint where community patriarchs gather to while away the day over games of backgammon.
Vegetarians will love the Despena, a pita filled with zucchini-feta fritters, garlic yogurt, tomatoes, onions an herb salad and Greek fries. Good tomatoes are "extremely important" to Greek cuisine, says Adams, but in New England good ones are tough to find out of season. So Saloniki sources from Madison, Maine's Backyard Farms, which uses large greenhouses to raise vine-ripened tomatoes that taste awesomely in-season year-round.
Guests can also take a DIY approach to building their own meal. Step one: choose a base (pita, brown rice or salad of greens). Step two: select a filling, from proteins like the spicy lamb meatballs, pictured, to veggie-friendly options like pomegranate-glazed roasted eggplant. Step three: add flavorful housemade sauces, from red pepper-sesame to spicy pickled slaw, and toppings like broken olive tapenade and preserved lemon.
There are a few other sides and small dishes, like Yiayia's Soup (white beans, preserved lemon and herbs). There's also the Village Salad of tomatoes, cucumbers, feta and oregano tossed in vinegar and Aria olive oil from Crete. And for dessert, dive into Baklava Crisps or Greek yogurt with lemon curd, honey or fig jam.
What will you have to wash it all down? Saloniki is serving red and white Anassa wines on draft, two Harpoon brews (including an exclusive saison), sodas from Waltham's Spindrift, housemade iced teas, lemonade and the Saloniki spin on Greece's national beverage: the frappé, pictured, a sweetened, foam-covered iced coffee.