BOISE, Idaho -- Until recently, Idahoans would have had to take quite a trip to get their hands on authentic gyros or hand-rolled baklava like that served by vendors on the streets of Athens. But now, there's no need to head across the ocean for traditional Greek street food. Instead, you can find it right on the streets of Boise, at Meraki Greek Street Food, a bright, cozy restaurant on 8th street in BoDo.
The people behind this unique restaurant are Aki and Farrah Kalatzakis. Aki's father, Taki, was born and raised in Greece, about 40 miles north of Athens. Taki came to the US in the 1970s and started cooking for a living, eventually becoming an executive chef. Taki's love of creating food for others became a tradition passed down to his son. Aki says, "The family recipes that he learned from his mom, my Yaya....transitioned to me, where I was in the kitchen trying to learn as much as I could."
And when Aki met Farrah, his love of Greek food and family traditions became her passion, too. "My thing was," rememberes Farrah, "going [to Greece], just having the great gyros, the family cooking for us, and I'm like this is awesome." But Farrah says they struggled to find authentic, traditional Greek street food back home in Boise. "I thought let's go have this somewhere else, and it was just hard to get that authenticity and doing it in that Greek way."
So, they decided to do it themselves, and Meraki was born in October of 2016. "Meraki" is Greek for "doing something with love, passion, creativity, and soul," or as Aki explains,"It's really to put the essence of you into your work."
While the dishes you'll find on the menu at Meraki may sound like your typical Greek fare, one taste, and you'll realize there's something special going on here. In fact, the restaurant literally has its own "secret sauce," a traditional tzatziki (pronounced "ja-jiki") sauce made from a secret family recipe passed down through generations of the Kalatzakis family.
Contrary to popular American beliefs, traditional Greek street gyros are not made with lamb. Instead, Farrah tells us that in Greece, the traditional gyro meats are pork or chicken, all hand-stacked, slow-roasted, and hand-shaved off a rotating spit. So, that's exactly how they do their meats at Meraki.
If you want to learn more about this authentic eatery, you can visit them online here. You can also find Aki and his famous tzatziki sauce at the Capitol City Farmers Market on Saturdays in downtown Boise.