OUR HISTORY

Zizikis Street Food originated from the successful franchise ‘Zizikis Restaurant’ in Dallas, Texas. Since its inception in July 1994, owners Mary and Costa Arabatzis have earned high acclaim from both local and national food and wine critics for consistently producing flavourful and deeply passionate Greek cuisine.

The name ‘Zizikis’ derives from the Greek name for the tangy yogurt sauce, tzatziki sauce, which is used as the dressing for many of our signature menu items, including our iconic Lamb Gyro. But as we shall see, the true origin of 'Zizikis Street Food' dates back much farther than 1994. 

Our story begins in Greece, 1936, with our beloved Papou (grandfather in Greek), whose courageous sacrifices would later become the bedrock for future generations of restauranteurs.

Zizikis Street Food originated from the successful franchise ‘Zizikis Restaurant’ in Dallas, Texas. Since its inception in July 1994, owners Mary and Costa Arabatzis have earned high acclaim from both local and national food and wine critics for consistently producing flavourful and deeply passionate Greek cuisine.

The name ‘Zizikis’ derives from the Greek name for the tangy yogurt sauce, tzatziki sauce, which is used as the dressing for many of our signature menu items, including our iconic Lamb Gyro. But as we shall see, the true origin of 'Zizikis Street Food' dates back much farther than 1994. 

Our story begins in Greece, 1936, with our beloved Papou (grandfather in a greek), whose courageous sacrifices would later become the bedrock for future generations of restauranteurs.

1ST GENERATION

IOANNIS AUGUSTUS
"PAPOU" ARABATZIS

1936

“I was born when the grapes were harvested; September 20, 1936 in Prosotani, Drama, Greece. My father was a delegate for the new President of Greece, Ioannis Metaxas. He baptized me and gave me the middle name of Augustus."
– Ioannis Augustus "Johnny" Arabatzis

There are only 4 Greek boys with the middle name Augusts; Papou (Johnny) is one of them. President Metaxas gave Johnny a gold knife and a 24k gold crown; gifts to Papou from President Metaxas.  The family story goes that YaYa threw them down the well to hide them from the German soldiers.

1936

"I was born when the grapes were harvested; September 20th, 1936 in Prosotani, Drama, Greece. My father was a delegate for the new President of Greece, Ioannis Metaxas. He baptized me and gave me the middle name of Augustus."
– Ioannis Augustus "Papou" Arabatzis

There are only 4 Greek boys with the middle name Augusts; Papou is one of them. President Metaxas gave Popou a gold knife and a 24k gold crown, gifts to Papou from President Metaxas. The family story goes that YaYa threw them down the well to hide them from the German soldiers.

1940

"We moved to Thessaloniki Greece in 1940 when I was 4 years old.  My father met with the villagers and encouraged them to change their farms from barley and vegetables to tobacco because the German army would pay more money for tobacco."
– Ioannis Augustus "Johnny" Arabatzis

Papou was very close to his grandfather who became a tobacco farmer.  The government gave him more land to grow tobacco on; he had 2 farms. Both had a walnut tree in the center to mark the fields; “this belongs to the Arabatzis.”

1940

"We moved to Thessaloniki Greece in 1940 when I was four years old. My father met with the villagers and encouraged them to change their farms from barley and vegetables to tobacco because the German army would pay more money for tobacco."
– Ioannis Augustus "Papou" Arabatzis

Papou was very close to his grandfather. He was a tobacco farmer. The government gave him more land to grow tobacco on; he had two farms. Both had a walnut tree in the center to mark the fields; "this belongs to the Arabatzis."

1949

As a teenager, Papou went out to find food for his family; they were in hiding from the German soldiers. He would bring it back and put the food in a hole in the wall where the family was hiding in the basement. His mom would go to the hole and get the food. Some of the German soldiers told Papou, "don't let anyone catch you hiding food in the hole; if they do, you pretend to play dice." 

"According to my mother, I was a very sharp boy…taught by my grandfather. I was selling water to the prisoners, but the prisoners didn't have any money so they gave me buttons and aluminum stars. One day I broke my clay water container; I was very sad and began to cry. A German soldier kicked me in the but to stop me from crying. One of the guards saw the soldier kick me. He came over and gave me some money to buy a new clay pot. The officers loved the Greek kids; we peeled potatoes for them."
– Ioannis Augustus "Papou" Arabatzis

1949

As a teenager, Papou went out to find food for his family; they were in hiding from the German soldiers. He would bring it back and put the food in a hole in the wall where the family was hiding in the basement. His mom would go to the hole and get the food. Some of the German soldiers told Papou, "don't let anyone catch you hiding food in the hole; if they do, you pretend to play dice." 

"According to my mother, I was a very sharp boy…taught by my grandfather. I was selling water to the prisoners, but the prisoners didn't have any money so they gave me buttons and aluminum stars. One day I broke my clay water container; I was very sad and began to cry. A German soldier kicked me in the but to stop me from crying. One of the guards saw the soldier kick me. He came over and gave me some money to buy a new clay pot. The officers loved the Greek kids; we peeled potatoes for them."
– Ioannis Augustus "Papou" Arabatzis

1958

Papou served in the Greek Army from 1958-1960; he was a driver for the Greek Army Headquarters. He would escort army officers and detectives.

During this time, the Germans were trying to overthrow the government and king of Greece. While being a driver, Papou discovered the gyro - a classic greek street food dish - in 1959 in Thessaloniki, Greece.

1958

Papou served in the Greek Army from 1958-1960; he was a driver for the Greek Army Headquarters. He would escort army officers and detectives.

During this time, the Germans were trying to overthrow the government and king of Greece. While being a driver, Papou discovered the gyro - a classic greek street food dish - in 1959 in Thessaloniki, Greece.

1960

The first of Papou's brothers to come to the USA was Jimmy. A Shoemaker from Nebraska sponsored him in 1953. To live in the USA, you had to have a sponsorship because they wanted workers.

At 24, Papou came to the USA on the Queen Mary in April 1960 by being sponsored by his brother Jimmy. He traveled 5 ½ days to get to the USA: from Greece to Hamburg, Germany; then to Southampton, England. He then traveled on The Queen Marry's last voyage; and arrived in New York City, USA, on April 5th, 1960.

He got his green card and took the 1st non-top flight from JFK to LA to live with Jimmy. Jimmy was in the Air Force and lived in military homes in Riverside, CA.

1960

The first of Papou's brothers to come to the USA was Jimmy. A Shoemaker from Nebraska sponsored him in 1953. To live in the USA, you had to have a sponsorship because they wanted workers.

At 24, Papou came to the USA on the Queen Mary in April 1960 by being sponsored by his brother Jimmy. He traveled 5 ½ days to get to the USA: from Greece to Hamburg, Germany; then to Southampton, England. He then traveled on The Queen Marry's last voyage; and arrived in New York City, USA, on April 5th, 1960.

He got his green card and took the 1st non-top flight from JFK to LA to live with Jimmy. Jimmy was in the Air Force and lived in military homes in Riverside, CA.

1966

In 1960, Papous's first job in the US was as a driver for Kings Hamburgers; he peeled two sacks of potatoes every day. 

In 1966, Papou's boss owned a Mexican restaurant in Redlands, CA, that he had to close. He told Papou, "you can learn it; you can do it." Papou took his advice, bought the restaurant, and owned 'La Hacienda Mexican Restaurant’ in Redlands from 1966-1972. 

In 1972 Papou then opened the renowned, very successful Johnny's Steakhouse in San Bernadino, CA. Many entertainers, politicians, and high-ranking officers from the nearby military base dined at Johnny's Steakhouse.

1966

In 1960, Papous's first job in the US was as a driver for Kings Hamburgers; he peeled two sacks of potatoes every day. 

In 1966, Papou's boss owned a Mexican restaurant in Redlands, CA, that he had to close. He told Papou, "you can learn it; you can do it." Papou took his advice, bought the restaurant, and owned 'La Hacienda Mexican Restaurant’ in Redlands from 1966-1972. 

In 1972 Papou then opened the renowned, very successful Johnny's Steakhouse in San Bernadino, CA. Many entertainers, politicians, and high-ranking officers from the nearby military base dined at Johnny's Steakhouse.

2ND GENERATION

COSTA ARABATZIS

1964

Two years earlier, in 1964, Papou's eldest son, Costa Arabatzis, was born in Hollywood, CA. Since the age of eight, he has been in the family restaurant business when he began his restaurant career as Assistant Dishwasher. He rose quickly (usually standing on top of a milk crate) to Assistant Manager and Cook while apprenticing in his father's California restaurant.

1964

Two years earlier, in 1964, Papou's eldest son, Costa Arabatzis, was born in Hollywood, CA. Since the age of eight, he has been in the family restaurant business when he began his restaurant career as Assistant Dishwasher. He rose quickly (usually standing on top of a milk crate) to Assistant Manager and Cook while apprenticing in his father's California restaurant.

1986

In 1986, Costa and his father opened the Greek Bistro in Maui, Hawaii, which still thrives today. After Maui, Costa moved to Dallas in 1990 and in January 1991 opened M Street Bistro.

1986

In 1986, Costa and his father opened the Greek Bistro in Maui, Hawaii, which still thrives today. After Maui, Costa moved to Dallas in 1990 and in January 1991 opened M Street Bistro.

1994

After selling the M Street Bistro in April 1994, he opened Ziziki's Restaurant in July 1994 with his wife, Mary Cloutier Arabatzis.

Mary helped concept, open, and market Ziziki's. Later in 1994, she joined Costa Arabatizs as owner/partner at Ziziki's. She was responsible for all details of the front of the house: management of staff, sales, marketing, and the development of the wine list. Among many awards, Ziziki's is proud to have consistently received "The Award of Excellence" by The Wine Spectator every year since 1994.

1994

After selling the M Street Bistro in April 1994, he opened Ziziki's Restaurant in July 1994 with his wife, Mary Cloutier Arabatzis. Mary helped concept, open, and market Ziziki's.

In 1994, she joined Costa Arabatizs as owner/partner at Ziziki's. She was responsible for all details of the front of the house: management of staff, sales, marketing, and the development of the wine list. Among many awards, Ziziki's is proud to have consistently received "The Award of Excellence" by The Wine Spectator every year since 1994.

3RD GENERATION

JAMES AUGUSTINE ARABATZIS

2000

On May 29th, 2000, Mary & Costa's son, James Augustine Arabatzis was born in Dallas, TX. Starting at the age of 15, James spent his after-school hours working as a dishwasher in the family restaurant.

2000

On May 29th, 2000, Mary & Costa's son, James Augustine Arabatzis was born in Dallas, TX. Starting at the age of 15, James spent his after-school hours working as a dishwasher in the family restaurant.

2015

In August 2015, Costa and Mary Arabatzis sold all three Ziziki's locations and moved their family to San Diego, CA. They successfully opened Beeside Balcony in Del Mar, California, in February 2016. 

Starting as a dishwasher, James spent countless hours working after school gradually working to become a line cook in 2016.

2015

In August 2015, Costa and Mary Arabatzis sold all three Ziziki's locations and moved their family to San Diego, CA. They successfully opened Beeside Balcony in Del Mar, California, in February 2016. 

Starting as a dishwasher, James spent countless hours working after school and was promoted to line cook in 2016.

2018

In 2018, to pursue his passion for the family business, James dropped out of this senior year of highschool, becoming co-owner and executive chef.

After dropping out, James launched his YouTube Channel and, to this day, documents his life as a 20-year-old restaurant owner and executive chef.
LEARN MORE

2018

In 2018, to pursue his passion for the family business, James dropped out of this senior year of highschool, becoming co-owner and executive chef.

After dropping out, James launched his YouTube Channel and, to this day, documents his life as a 20-year-old restaurant owner and executive chef.
LEARN MORE

2019

In 2019, after dining at Beeside Balcony, the owners of the renowned Del Mar Highlands Town Centre invited them to open two new restaurants in their upcoming Food Collective called 'The SkyDeck.'

The first restaurant is called 'Zizikis Street Food.' It is a fine-casual Greek restaurant that combines over three generations of passed-down family recipes and techniques to create a truly chef-driven fine-casual experience. 

The second restaurant is called 'J.' It is an upscale New American restaurant that integrates James' personal beliefs on life to create a reimagined dining experience, a restaurant where familiar flavors are transformed using modernist techniques to create something extraordinary. 

2019

In 2019, after dining at Beeside Balcony, the owners of the renowned Del Mar Highlands Town Centre invited them to open two new restaurants in their upcoming Food Collective called 'The SkyDeck.'

The first restaurant is 'Zizikis Street Food.' It is a fine-casual Greek restaurant that combines over three generations of passed-down family recipes and techniques to create a truly chef-driven fine-casual experience. 

The second restaurant is called 'J.' It is an upscale New American restaurant that integrates James' personal beliefs on life to create a reimagined dining experience, a restaurant where familiar flavors are transformed using modernist techniques to create something extraordinary. 

2021

On March 1st, 2021, Costa, Mary, and James Arabatzis open Zizikis Street Food in San Diego, CA.

2021

On March 1st, 2021, Costa, Mary, and James opened 'Zizikis Street Food' in San Diego, CA.