Back in 1966, Christos Kalogrias came to Canada, leaving his native Greek village of Arahova. He was only 26 years of age and had some family here. His first job was in manufacturing, earning 95 cents an hour. In order to build some savings, he relocated to Thompson, Manitoba to work in a nickel and mining company, returning to Montreal in 1971 with enough money to open his own restaurant on St. Viateur Street. In June, Arahova Souvlaki celebrated its 50th anniversary.
There are now nine Arahova locations, with a 10th coming in the fall to Pointe Claire in the commercial plaza on Brunswick and Sources next to Les 3 Brasseurs. Laval’s Curé Labelle location also serves as the head office for the operation and home for the company plant, which produces fresh products each day for the restaurants and distribution at grocery stores. Most recently, Costco was added as a distributor.
While Christos is officially retired, he still comes to the Laval spot most days where he can be found in the kitchen making his own special Moussaka recipe. When I dropped by with a friend recently, Christos did not stop working. He also grows his own tomatoes on site.
Christos’ son George (a.k.a. Souvlaki Boss) and daughters Tina Bia work as a strong team in steering the company in the right direction. They have been around the restaurant scene since childhood. George is president/director of sales; Tina, VP of marketing and Bia, regional manager.
“We were born into it,” says George. “For us this is a lifestyle, not a job.”
Let’s not forget Angela, Christos’ wife and the mom of the three restaurateurs.
The Kalogrias kidsgrew up in Chomedey and that is why most of the company’s action occurs there.
I chose the Laval location to dine in order to meet the legendary Christos in person. He was busy in the kitchen most of the time. Veteran server Madonne showed us to a table on the spacious terrasse. It is completely covered, perfect in case of rain. Madonne has been on staff for 23 years.
My friend and I started off with some Arahova salads, containing lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, Greek olives, feta cheese, house dressing and oregano. Madonne brought us some pita bread, their world famous tzatziki and my favorite taramosalata,
Next came a seafood platter, with grilled salmon, grilled shrimp and calamari. As we dug in, Madonne reappeared with pork, lamb and chicken souvlaki sticks and the crispiest French Fries I have tasted in a long time. Arahova locations also have an excellent lunch express menu from 11 am to 3 pm.
Not only did we each have leftovers to take home, but George had Madonne bring us a pair of classic Doner meals with rice and Greek potatoes and to ensure that the experience was complete I got a package of frozen calamari that I happily heated up at home. This came directly from the factory in the back of the building. My friend got a frozen Greek Spinach pie with a garlic crust.
Pleased that COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted, business at the Arahova terrasses and dining rooms has been good. But George notes that take-out and delivery was strong during the pandemic and of course clients can always get their Arahova favorites at the grocery store.
As for the future, Arahova is taking calls for potential franchisees in Mirabel, Griffintown
Saint-Laurent, the West Island and Repentigny.
For more information log on to www.arahova-souvlaki.ca