Now that Small Business Week is over, I wanted to give you guys a recap of my favorite spots. If you missed out on the posts, it’s all good! You can read below to catch up.
In the US, the first week of May is usually Small Business Week. With summer approaching, it’s the perfect time for businesses to amplify themselves and let people know we’re out here. This year, COVID definitely got in the way of things. Entrepreneurs everywhere have stepped up their hustle and creativity to keep the lights on.
Jigga was speaking the truth when he said, “I'm not a businessman, I'm a business, man.” Running a small business is a grind and a lifestyle. I love to support my people and refused to let the pandemic take away their shine. That’s why I decided to celebrate the week by sharing a few stories and showing my favorite businesses some social media love.
When times hit hard like this, it’s crucial to keep the money in your community by shopping at local mom and pop shops. Federal grants and bailouts help, but it’s a fight to get to those resources. Paperwork isn’t sexy, haha. Did you know that according to the SBA, most companies with up to 500 employees or annual receipts under $7.5 million, can qualify as a small business? It's wild to know a business moving millions can still be considered “small.”
My picks don’t have 500 employees or millions of dollars. Instead, all of them have amazing customer service, fantastic foods, and insanely dedicated, talented, and good people running them. These business owners taught me so much and I have a ton of fond memories for each place. When you order from them, you’ll know why I’m so happy to call them my people.
My aunt and uncle opened a restaurant called The Beautiful South in Hamilton, VA in the late '80s. My cousin took over the family business almost 15 years ago and rebranded it into The Hamilton Station Gastropub. Collectively, over 30 years of family tradition and culinary excellence have kept this place going. I love Hamilton Station so much cuz when you walk in, it’s like a second home where everyone knows your name. The atmosphere almost reminds me of the old TV show, Cheers. They serve international dishes, American classics, killer specialty pizza, and have a great bar with a long wine list.
In the early 90s, I would stay with my extended family on and off over the summer to bus tables and save money for Jordans. Ever since I was young, I’ve always preferred to earn my money instead of asking for it. Plus, as a budding sneakerhead, I knew there was no way my mom would say yes to $80-$100 kicks. By working for my money, my parents couldn't tell me anything about my Jordans addiction and I didn’t have to tell them how much I was really making.
In 2014, I moved from DC to VA to help out my cousin by bartending and running the front of the house while finishing my business degree at the University of MD. The gastropub has a special place in my heart because of how tight our families are and how much I learned about running a business.
If you’re ever in Loudoun County, give them a call at 540-338-7335 for takeout and tell ‘em Kosta sent you! You won’t be disappointed.
My childhood friends, Ted Xenohristos, Ike Grigoropoulos, and Dimitri Moshovitis came up with the idea for Cava Mezze over coffee. As kids of Greek immigrants and life-long DMV residents (just like me), they wanted to bring Mediterranean mezze-style dining to DC.
The first Cava Mezze opened in a Rockville shopping center and quickly blew up as a neighborhood hangout. Ted, Ike, Dimitri, and their families hand-built tables, smashed tiles and put a ton of effort into making their first restaurant a success. In 2007, I joined my friends and worked as a waiter and bartender. Six months later, I moved to DC to help them open their first District location in Capitol Hill. After a few years of working at Cava Mezze and living with one of the owners, I eventually left to start Rapteez.
The Capitol Hill location has an awesome painted mural that shows the three owners as old Greeks. I love that piece and it reminds me of the memories we made when I helped my boys open their second location. They’ve now grown to 5 DMV locations and I couldn’t be prouder of them.
Cava Mezze serves modern takes on Greek recipes, offers shared plates, an expansive wine, and beer list, and handcrafted cocktails. They’re also doing great things to support the community during the pandemic. They have delivery available through Doordash and Caviar, but it’s always best to order straight from them (or any restaurant). Third-party delivery apps can charge insane fees that make the small business struggle harder than it needs to be. You’ll get 10% off when ordering directly from the Cava Mezze website and they offer curbside pickup at all 5 locations.
Talia’s Cuzina has great food and is run by an even greater family. The owner, Chris Panagiotopoulos, is a close family friend. His wife and my mom have been tight ever since they were teenagers.
Chris grew up in Montreal, Canada, and was inspired by his mother's passion for Mediterranean cooking. He began learning the ins and outs of the foodservice and hospitality industry at 15! He was practically born to do this.
All of these restaurants have a special place in my heart and show how tight-knit the DMV Greek community is. You can’t go wrong with any of them and you'll learn how great our food is! Definitely give these places some love and let them know Kosta sent you.
I want to give a big thank you to everyone who helped me get the photos together for social media. I can’t wait to see y’all again and take some new ones when this is over.
Stay safe and much love,