Gifts handed down from one generation to another can be exceptionally beneficial. Just ask the twin brothers who opened The Big Greek Cafe in memory of their mother and the dinners they shared with family.
"Every Sunday, we'd get together and we'd cook big dinners. She always said, "You know, I want to offer people cheap Greek food,"" said Nikos Marmaras, co-owner of the restaurant in downtown Silver Spring.
His mother, Koralia, wanted to give people inexpensive Greek food with the same high quality as the dishes the Marmaras family enjoyed at home. Nikos and Simos remembered the conversations with their mother after she passed away.
They opened the first Big Greek Cafe at 8223 Georgia Avenue in 2007, and a second location in Rockville last year. The brothers run both the restaurants, serving dishes made from family recipes they tweaked.
"We're hands on everything. Front of the house. Back of the house. We mostly stay in the back of the house cooking all the foods, the dressings and marinades," said Nikos.
The quality of the starters, salads and sandwiches coming out of Cafe kitchens brought Alison Miller back. The Silver Spring mom has eaten dinner at the Silver Spring eatery and is now trying lunch.
"My mom is in from out of town and I've told her how much I like it. We brought her to show her how good it is," said Miller.
Her mother, Karen Fahrner, said, "It's a good one. This is very impressive," when asked to compare The Big Greek Cafe's food to restaurants she has tried around her hometown of San Jose, CA.
The plates and cutlery are disposable, but the Marmaras brothers pride themselves on offering patrons an affordable, fresh taste of their Greek heritage. After all, Nikos and Simos spent most of their lives helping out at the Golden Flame. Their father, Bill, and late mom opened the fine dining restaurant on Fenton Street some 40 years ago.
"We feel like we accomplished something. We've been open three years. People like us from what I see on Yelp or online. People give us four and a half stars," said Nikos.
He and Simos decided to take the risk of opening restaurants in challenging economic times because they believed in their mother's idea. The popular souvlaki, gyro, and bifteki pita sandwiches are just under $7.00. A sandwich platter comes with a Greek salad and another side for a few more dollars. Gyro pitas are $5.00 every Wednesday.
The Big Greek Cafe also has a Falafel salad and other entree size salads from $7.75 to $10.75. For starters, you can try dolomades (stuffed grape leaves) for $5.50 or spanakopita (spinach and feta in phyllo crust) for $5.95. Desserts are under $4.00.
"We've been coming here for awhile. It's easy, fast, good and not too expensive," said William Smith, III, a patron.
Smith's son, William the IV, is a fan of the Cafe's pita. His daughter raved about another big seller from the menu.
"I guess my favorite part is the French fries. They are really crunchy," said Rachel Smith. "The souvlaki is really good and I like the pita."
Nikos and Simos plan to open a third location in coming months. It will provide another place to hang a picture of Koralia, the mother who must be smiling from above over what she has inspired.
Watch a video of Simos talking about his mom and the restaurant's name on The Big Greek Cafe's Website. Just click on the picture of the TV. You can also check out the menu or hours. Call 301-587-4733 for information about takeout orders or catering.
Note: This is a restaurant profile, not an endorsement. Go to yelp.com or other online sources for reviews.