To live in a city as stretched-thin as Albuquerque without succumbing to the effects of mental as well as physical sprawl, you need anchors. Places and people that carve out a strong sense of identity among the hodgepodge of streets and strip malls and big box stores. Without these anchors, we'd smudge out like the outline of the Sandia Mountains during a spring windstorm.
For the past nine years, Mykonos Café has served as one of these anchors. Established by Maria Constantine in April of 1997, Mykonos from the start was intended as a neighborhood restaurant.
"Our customers come here and they can say, "It feels like home,'" says Maria. "We cater to that feeling."
Running a family restaurant is in Maria's blood. When her mother and father first arrived in Albuquerque in 1967, they owned or operated a series of successful restaurants, most notably the Grape and Steak on Central Avenue. Maria learned the business by helping out in the family establishments and then further honed her skills during a ten-year stint as manager for the Rancher's Club. When Maria decided to strike out on her own with an authentic Greek restaurant, she brought her mother, Toula Matsoukas, on board to help out with the cooking. Toula's recipes still form the basis for the Mykonos menu.
The restaurant has grown since it was first opened, namely undergoing an expansion to 5,000 square feet, and still retains an intimate, sociable ambiance with its breezy Mediterranean décor, outdoor patio, and festive piano bar.
And of course, there's the food. Renowned for its authentic Greek and Mediterranean flavored fare, the menu at Mykonos ranges from favorites like spanakopita, mousaka and souvlaki to salads, grilled meat and fish and daily specials. Now in her mid seventies, Toula still closely monitors the quality of the food, ensuring that each batch of baklava, every roll of the dolmades, is still prepared to her exacting standards.
"She refuses to leave," says Maria of Toula's insistence on remaining in the back of the house. "So she comes in every day just like she always has. And that's fine with us. We want her to be happy."
Which of course makes the customers happy. While acknowledging the necessity of growth and change in the restaurant business, Maria also says she won't budge when it comes to the quality of her food. "It's the one thing we won't sacrifice."
That dedication has certainly paid off. Since they've opened, Maria has faithfully collected and catalogued hundreds of client comment cards. "I call them my Bible. It gives me an idea of what we do right and what we do wrong."
What those cards reveal is that ninety-eight percent of Maria's customers comment favorably on the quality of the food and service and, most importantly, how happy they are that the restaurant has been here for all these years.
"That's the difference with a locally owned restaurant," says Maria. "The loyalty is to the families, the locally owned operators. We give the diner the personal attention, the finest quality of ingredients, the home ambiance. That's our special niche."
Mykonos Café is located at 5900 Eubank NE in the Mountain Run Shopping Center in Albuquerque. Open Sunday through Tuesday 11 am to 9 pm, Wednesday through Saturday 11 am to 10 pm. 505.291.1116