Longtime downtown restaurant expands by opening a food truck

A Mad Greek on wheels may sound like a dangerous thing at first, but likely the only danger will be to your waistline. The longtime downtown Lawrence restaurant The Mad Greek has expanded by opening a food truck.

“We have wanted to expand for awhile now,” said Deb Tagtalianidis, who owns the restaurant with her husband, Theo. “We have a lot of great customers from outside Lawrence, and they are always telling us we should open a restaurant in Topeka or Kansas City. We think the best way to do that right now is with a food truck.”

But don’t worry, Lawrence diners. You’ll get plenty of opportunities to check out the truck too. The truck already has signed up to be part of Lawrence’s Kansas Food Truck Festival on May 5, and it will make its local debut at a grand opening event for Evening Shade Farms Soap house on March 30 in North Lawrence.

photo by: Chad Lawhorn

The Mad Greek's new food truck. Courtesy: The Mad Greek.

As for what you will find when you visit the truck, expect lots of Greek food that is well-suited to eat from your palm. That didn’t require much modification of many of The Mad Greek’s most popular menu items. Of course, a staple of the food truck menu will be the gyro sandwich, which is a mix of beef and lamb ground together and served on pita bread with a tomato, onion and tzatziki sauce.

If you like the gyro sandwich, then you may particularly like the gyro fries, which Deb said is a food-truck only item. Those are french fries topped with feta cheese and gyro meat. Sounds good but messy (although not as messy as me trying to accurately pronounce “gyro.”) Speaking of words that I mispronounce, the menu also features spanakopita and souvlaki. Spanakopita is a vegetarian dish that includes spinach and feta cheese wrapped in buttered phyllo dough. Souvlaki is a dish that features marinated, charbroiled pork loin that can be served either on a kabob or as a sandwich.

The food truck menu also will include falafel sandwiches, the restaurant’s signature spicy feta cheese dip and, of course, humus and pita chips, among other items.

A big part of the truck idea is to create some new awareness about The Mad Greek’s brick and mortar restaurant at 907 Massachusetts St. The restaurant bills itself as a Greek restaurant that really has its roots in Greece. The food truck seeks to remind people that the owners have a real Greek connection. The food truck has large graphics of family photos taken in Greece.

Theo, Deb’s husband and the chef at the restaurant, grew up in Greece, and actually operated a restaurant there with his cousin before moving to America.

“My husband is Greek, so we really do feel like we’re helping bring the flavor of Greece to downtown Lawrence,” Deb said.

The family bought The Mad Greek four years ago from another Greek family, the Kritos, who founded the restaurant. That founding happened 30 years ago, which makes this a big year for the restaurant.

Deb said the restaurant is planning several celebrations for later in the year — the actual anniversary is in October — and the business will use its new food truck to help spread the word.

“We are excited to get out there and meet more people,” Deb said. “We want them to try the restaurant through the food truck and then have them come try the brick-and-mortar restaurant. We love exposing people to Greek food.”

photo by: Chad Lawhorn

Courtesy: The Mad Greek