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Taki's Mad Greek

Life's magic moments

Demetrios (Taki) Dotis has two main passions (besides his family): music and food. He is the "King of Taxim" (improvisation) on the bouzouki. In the kitchen, he has improvised and created his own recipes.

Taki and son Elias at the restaurant

"Everything is home made," says his eldest son, Elias. "He puts so much care in every dish, making everything from scratch, and he's very consistent. He takes a lot of time in the kitchen prepping. He has a passion for the restaurant, wanting to make nice dishes that look as good as they taste."

Taki is self-taught in music as well as food. In Florina, Greece, his hometown, he would stand outside and listen to live music being played inside. When he had enough money, he bought a bouzouki and learned to play. "He got gigs, moved to Athens and he played with big names in music. He was in several movies, then moved to Hollywood in 1970. Later he moved to Walnut Creek outside of San Francisco, recording albums of his own compositions as well as playing on others' albums. He lived in Hawaii for a couple of years where he played at the Mad Greek restaurant in Waikiki, which is where the name 'Mad Greek' came from. It was a famous place with dinner shows and dancing waiters. He traveled to the East Coast (Boston, Toronto) where singers did residencies and he would play with them. He traveled to Dallas and Houston. While playing at The Mad Greek, he was asked to play in Seattle at the Grecian Corner in 1978. Even when I was young, he would travel to Alaska, Canada, Portland, Oregon, to play on weekends. The stories he has are incredible; he played with the legends."

Once in Seattle, things changed and his gigs went from six nights a week to four, then two. He knew Greeks in the restaurant business and decided it was time for him to do that, too. "He liked to cook for himself and learned about the restaurant business from owners/chefs who had supported him musically. From that base and his knowledge of Greek and other dishes, he created his own recipes. He has never worked for anyone in the restaurant business, and I think that's why his food is so good. He doesn't always look at the bottom line, he looks at the final product. He uses the best ingredients and takes the time to make every dish perfect, making small batches so everything is fresh."

Greek pork chops

Taki bought a Coffee Corral luncheonette downtown in 1984, calling it Taki's. He also had a grocery/convenience store next to the restaurant and was looking at a third spot. In 1985, he married Vickie (Kiki) Panagiotopoulos. Their next spot was a deli in Belltown called Athina Café. After that it was TK's (for Taki and Kiki) in West Seattle, which was a Greek/American/Italian diner. They sold that and started Taki's Pizza and Pasta on 24th which they kept for 14 years, adding a Taki's II on Cedar Street near the 5 Point Café. They then opened Taki's Fish & Chips in Ballard, running all three at the same time. Eventually they sold II and Taki's Fish & Chips. They wanted to do Greek food, so they opened Taki's Mad Greek in Ballard, staying in that location for 16 years."

Originally Taki's Mad Greek was an order-at-the-counter gyro place, then they remodeled it into a full Greek restaurant with an open kitchen and space to play music. "My dad would say, "'Why do we leave our restaurant to play somewhere else?' So, we started playing at our restaurant."

Dips and olives

The building was torn down and in 2018 they moved to their current location nearby. "We've expanded our capacity for meals and music nights and have a much larger kitchen so we can do more catering and take-out. I miss the old place a little because it was the first place I was really involved in. I was 13 when I began playing drums in our new group. I switched over to keyboard and play the bouzouki, but I'm nowhere near as good as my dad. He has so many songs in his head-you have to be ready for requests-and is still writing music.

"My mom was always involved in designing the restaurants and she is our Greek wine specialist. We have over 12 reds, and 6-7 whites and rosés on our list. She finds Greek beer, too, but it's harder to come by." They have a full bar with Greek and other spirits. "My brother, George, has worked in the restaurants all along, too. He and mom both serve, but he has a real interest in the culinary side of things. Both he and dad have specials they like to offer."

During the pandemic, there were no music nights, but Elias and Taki practiced together nearly every day. "Our weekly music nights have gone to monthly, and we don't have a specific day. People can look online or just call and ask."

 

George (left) and Elias as young musicians

With the future comes change. Elias has just married and is moving to Michigan. He will continue to do some work online and return frequently to work and play music. He hopes his dad will eventually semi-retire and that his brother will step into Elias's day-to-day management shoes as well as helping in the kitchen. His mom will continue to handle her key jobs. "I hope that George will use his culinary contributions to keep things going and maybe take the restaurant to new places. We're proud to be a family restaurant and I hope it will continue."

Connie Adams/January 2023

Taki's Mad Greek

1471 NW 85th St
Seattle, WA 98117
206-297-9200

takismadgreek.com


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