Niko Niko's on Market Square Is the Next Chapter In a Restaurant's Long, Storied History

Categories: Local Spotlight

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Photos by Troy Fields
Niko Niko's already draws a healthy lunchtime crowd.
Back in 2001, Wendy Grossman wrote "Elbow Greece," a feature for the Houston Press on the long and fascinating history of what was -- at that time -- already a stalwart Houston favorite: Niko Niko's.

Eleni Fetokakis runs her Greek-American cafe, Niko Niko's, with a German work ethic. She tells employees if they want to relax, go home. She says she isn't running a school, she's running a restaurant, and she doesn't have time to teach everyone how to do everything every day. If someone isn't doing something right, she follows behind giving orders and corrections.

This is nothing new. She's operated like this since the beginning. "She was a tyrant," remembers her 28-year-old son, Dimitrios Fetokakis. She fired him almost every day (until he bought the place).

Ten years later, Dimitri is still running a tight ship at the original and now greatly expanded Niko Niko's on Montrose, as well as its first and (so far) only satellite location in downtown's Market Square Park. You can see him there many days of the week -- the bear-like man is kind of difficult to miss. He's there so often, in fact, that he's earned the nickname "Mayor of Market Square."

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Falafel pitas are a favorite.
It's this second location of an old favorite that's the subject of this week's cafe review. And although many things are familiar about the Market Square Niko Niko's -- the fluffy pita, the tangy tzatiki sauce, the savory lamb and the heavenly, lemon-scented oven potatoes -- just as many things are vibrantly and wonderfully new.

Convenient (and conveniently priced) box lunches for office workers during the day give way to a startlingly romantic feel at night, with candles in old-fashioned red glass tumblers on each of the tables and a view of downtown's tall quiver of lights just past a quietly bubbling fountain.

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Breakfasts in the park, too, are refreshingly lovely and not at all crowded -- yet. In fact, a stunning duo of breakfast pitas is what drew me to Niko Niko's in the first place, and what made me fall quickly in love with this everything-old-is-new-again slice of downtown.

It's a perfect partnership to revitalize this part of the city: Market Square and Niko Niko's are both survivors in a city where, as we pointed out only yesterday, short lifespans are the norm and history is quickly buried and forgotten.

For more photos from Niko Niko's (and for a look inside the small and efficient kitchen), check out our slideshow.

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Location Info

Venue

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Niko Niko's Market Square

301 Milam St., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

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10 comments
frangomints
frangomints

Still a favorite! But haven't heard much from them lately.

Kyle
Kyle

Hm, the falafel is one of the few things at Niko's that really disappoints me. Very dry, not the best flavor.

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

Wow! I've never had a dry falafel there, and I know what you mean about disappointing falafel. It seems to be all over town. Give it another try, and if that doesn't suit you, try Abdallah's.

Shapelyd
Shapelyd

Dimitrios is a great guy---he's always the first to set up donations whenever there's an earthquake or tsunami...or giving away food to incentivize a blood drive. I wish him only the best in Market Square!

simplyrick
simplyrick

Niko Niko's is a nice place... Funded in big part by your downtown renovation tax dollars.

Walk across Travis and visit the places that are the long survivors of all the torn up roads and crappy park full of bums. The standards for north downtown: Market Square Bar & Grill (marketsquaregrill dot com) and Treebeard's. The list of dead venues that were all around those two is long and distinguished...

Old Salty
Old Salty

It takes gumption and perseverance to get those downtown renovation tax dollars, they don't just give them to you. If other restaurants had the will that Niko Niko's does, they could have a piece of those tax dollars too. You gotta want it.

matt
matt

What renovation was done by Niko Niko? Niko Niko gave the City some $$ to get that permit in Market Square.

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

Praising Niko Niko's doesn't mean that there's no praise left for other survivors of Houston's crazy restaurant scene. ;)

I've been eating at Treebeard's nearly as long as I've been alive. Both Treebeard's and MSBG deserve praise of their own, for sure.

simplyrick
simplyrick

Agreed.

Those two did try to approach the downtown folks. It wasn't what they wanted, and the politics to get past that apparently were too steep. Doesn't hurt to have the variety though, especially from a successful proven veteran. It would be just as easy for folks at Main/Travis & Texas to walk any other direction. Now there is a bigger reason to do so.

Craig
Craig

Yea, I love to sit in the park and eat Cajun food. Come on now!

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