As most active social media users know, what is posted on the Internet stays on the Internet.
In the case of chef and restaurant owner Nikos Malitsis, a video of him in aviator sunglasses emphatically slapping a pork slab to the tune of thumping Greek music will be a permanent Internet footprint. And he couldn’t be more excited about it.
“My restaurant started as a YouTube video,” Malitsis said. “When Salt Bae came around, somebody said, ‘Why don’t you do something like that?’ So we started messing around, made a couple of videos, started getting a little vibe and I ended up opening up a restaurant and called it Greek Meat Guy.”
Now, Malitsis owns and operates the Greek Meat Guy restaurant on 129 E Third St., proudly serving his favorite casual Greek foods late into the night.
Malitsis said he drew inspiration from Salt Bae, an Internet icon recognized for his sensual preparation of meat.
“The Salt Bae guy is a Turkish guy, so I said, ‘All right, I guess I’m the Greek Meat Guy,’” Malitsis said. “He had the salt thing, so I said, ‘I guess I’ll do the glasses. And the slapping.’ And here we are now.”
While the videos of Salt Bae did pique Malitsis’ interest in experimenting with the art of passionate meat preparation, he said the real catalyst for his new restaurant was the insistence of his friends.
“I wasn’t even planning on opening a restaurant,” he said. “I had a big Memorial Day party at my house and I was cooking all the food and one of my longtime friends, my partner (at the restaurant), came to me and said, ‘Dude, why are you making all this money for all of these other restaurants? Why don’t you open up your own place again?’ After that, I never looked back.”
Before working as a chef, Malitsis owned several of his own restaurants but found it challenging to spend time with his wife and kids while running his own business. He was resigned to his role as a chef at various locations until his friend suggested that instead of opening a full-scale restaurant, he introduce a “casual but quality” fast-food eatery.
“My friend said, ‘Well, if you open up a fast-food place and still make it good, you don’t have to be there as much,’” Malitsis said. “So here we are. This place runs by itself.”
Complete with colored lights, loud music and billowing Greek flags, the restaurant reflects Malitsis’ relaxed, upbeat demeanor, which employees say give it an unmatched atmosphere.
“It’s a really fun environment,” said Mauricio Navarro, who is the chef and Malitsis’ business partner. “You walk in to a totally Greek place. The music, the vibe, the people… From the moment you come in, if you’re having a bad day, you just turn on the Greek music in the back and start dancing.”
The restaurant has been up and running for a little over a month and already is busy with traffic from Bethlehem locals, college students and passersbys. The eatery also responds to a consistent stream of delivery calls and UberEATS orders.
“You should see it here at night,” Malitsis said. “The cars are lined up and down the street to take our food out. It’s awesome.”
Malitsis said a lot of the demand for his food comes late at night. On the weekends, the restaurant stays open until 3 a.m., drawing a large crowd from the bars and night clubs that close at 2 a.m.
“As soon as I saw the spot…I said I was gonna cash in,” he said. “I’m one of the only places to eat that late…If you’re in Bethlehem, you come here.”
But regardless of whether customers are hungry for a late-night snack or a midday meal, Malitsis said he goes to great lengths to guarantee the same quality every time. To ensure each piece of meat has his signature flare, he comes in early and preps the meat the same way every day.
“I want people to get the same sandwich they got the day before,” he said.
So far, the response has been positive. The restaurant’s signature dishes include the lamb and pork pitas, prepared in authentic Greek style.
“The food is amazing,” Dylan Harshaw, ’20, said. “I had never really tried Greek food before this place, but now it’s definitely one of my favorite spots.”
As for the videos, Malitsis said he is working on new material. His focus, however, remains on making sure every customer leaves his restaurant full and happy.
“This is what I’ve always wanted to do,” Malitsis said. “If you give the customer good food, they’re gonna be happy. And I love putting a smile on peoples’ faces when they eat my food.”