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Incoming Glisan Restaurant Tréla Wants to Help Keep Portland’s Greek Culture Alive

The owners, who grew up in now-closed Portland-area Greek restaurants, hope to serve both longstanding family recipes and newer adaptions made with Pacific Northwestern ingredients

Brooke Jackson-Glidden is the editor of Eater Portland.

Growing up, Napoleon and Anthony Tzakis’s lives were built around their church and their family’s food. Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral, perched on Northeast Glisan, is perhaps best known by the secular as the site of the Portland Greek Festival, where locals flock to eat loukoumades straight from the fryer, or coat themselves in the powdered sugar of kourabiethes. The brothers made close friendships within their church, particularly with fellow parishioners Emmett Fraser and Jordan Johnson; all four grew up eating in each others’ homes, or visiting the Tzakis grandparents’ house for dolmades. Helen and Denny Tzakis — Napoleon and Anthony’s parents — owned restaurants, places like Touch of Athens or Santorini’s, longtime locals may remember. Fraser’s first job was working at one of them, and Johnson grew up working for Tzakis restaurants, as well.

Soon, the Tzakis brothers, Johnson, and Fraser will open a restaurant just down the street from the church where they grew up. Tréla, landing at 60th and Glisan in October, will blend the influences and flavors of both the Pacific Northwest and Greece, serving meals born from family recipes using Oregon and Washington-grown seasonal produce. The owners hope to carry on the legacy of their families’ heritage, as the proliferation of Greek restaurants continues to decline around the city.

Historically, Portland had a larger Greek restaurant presence, even beyond the aforementioned, now-closed Tzakis family restaurants. Places like Alexis Restaurant and Demetri’s Mediterranean Restaurant were quintessential spots for dishes like saganaki and souvlaki, and locals and tourists would sip ouzo at places like Greek Cusina. Over the last few decades, Portland’s Greek restaurants, diners, and bars have slowly slipped away, leaving just a handful around greater Portland. “A lot of these restaurants have shut down,” Anthony Tzakis says. “There’s this older generation of restaurant owners that have retired and moved on from the restaurant industry. It’s on us to continue that tradition.”

At Tréla, each of the owners will bring facets of their family history to the menu and experience. Napoleon and Anthony Tzakis’s grandparents emigrated to the United States after World War II, and often adapted recipes they brought here using game they hunted or fish they caught. Similarly, Tréla will serve a Greek-style whole fish using a local trout. The family dolmades will appear on the menu, as well as meze standards like tzatziki and hummus made from family recipes.

The menu is still in development, but there are a few dishes the owners are particularly excited about, like an octopus that marinates in a sous vide, finished on the grill — the menu will be very seafood heavy, considering both Oregon and Greece’s proximity to the ocean. They also hope to offer a true vertical spit gyro, a rarity in Portland proper (many thinly slice meat from a pre-made loaf instead). At the bar, the wine list will focus very closely on Pacific Northwestern wines; a wider selection of spirits at the bar will also include Greek standards like tsipouro and ouzo.

“We want to keep this Greek culture alive here,” Napoleon Tzakis says. “It’s kind of gone away with my father’s generation; that’s what keeps us going.”

Tréla will be located at 6000 NE Glisan Street.