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Pita in the Park

Niko Niko's outpost offers standards, surrounded by skyscrapers.

See the sights at Niko Niko's Market Square location in our slideshow.

"There is just so much to love on this table right now," I found myself gushing over a recent dinner at the new Niko Niko's in Market Square Park. I don't normally get quite this silly over meals, especially meals I've eaten for most of my life. But there's something special about this little downtown outpost of an old Houston favorite that gets under my skin in a good way, making me giddy and happy each time I eat there.

On the table that night was an assortment of all the kinds of things that Niko Niko's does best: a huge portion of papoutsakia (stuffed eggplant, literally "little shoes"), soft and lemony roasted potatoes, a crispy Greek salad topped with a large square of feta cheese and garlicky dressing, four triangles of warm and fluffy pita bread, a bowl of tangy tzatziki sauce and an immense chicken Philly sandwich served with a heap of house-made potato chips.

Enjoy your falafel box lunch outside.
Troy Fields
Enjoy your falafel box lunch outside.

Location Info

Map

Niko Niko's Market Square

301 Milam St.
Houston, TX 77002

Category: Restaurant > Greek

Region: Downtown/ Midtown

Details

BLOG POST: Breakfast in the Park at Niko Niko's Market Square.

SLIDESHOW: Opa! Niko Niko's Livens Up Market Square

Hours: 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., Mondays through Fridays, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturdays through Sundays.

Felafel breakfast pita: $3.93

Spartan breakfast pita: $3.93

Greek yogurt & honey: $3

Greek salad: $5.54

Box lunch: $9.93

Gyro sandwich: $5.54

Souvlaki sandwich: $6.93

Chicken Philly: $6.47

Cappuccino: $3

Papoutsakia: $8.95

Niko Niko's

301 Milam, 713-224-4976.

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My dining companion, who lived in Greece for several years while serving in the Air Force, was right at home as he told me about the little pita stands he and his buddies used to eat at, just outside the base: little mom-and-pop places that served touristy Greek food that was nevertheless delicious. It's the same at Niko Niko's.

At this point, it's no longer about whether or not Niko Niko's is "authentically" Greek. It long ago adapted to Houstonian tastes, and all that matters anymore is whether or not it's delicious. And it is. That's why there's always a line stretching nearly to the parking lot at the Montrose location of the restaurant, which first opened in 1977 with money borrowed by Chrisanthios Fetokakis from fellow Greek restaurateur Pete Pappas.

The new food kiosk in Market Square is a return to form for the Niko Niko's family, which initially sold just gyros out of its little walk-up stand along Montrose Boulevard. Dimitri Fetokakis now owns the restaurant opened by his parents, Chrisanthios and Eleni Fetokakis, Greek immigrants who made the restaurant the beloved Houston institution that it is today. Since purchasing it in 1998, Dimitri has thought about expanding — one initial plan had him opening a Niko Niko's in Austin — but the right opportunity never presented itself until the downtown renovation of Market Square Park.
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These days, in the short six months since it's been open, the jovial Dimitri paces outside the restaurant on certain days, earning himself the nickname "Mayor of Market Square." Standing well over six feet tall, with a barrel chest and a thick, black beard, he's hard to miss. Perhaps because there was some initial concern about the line being too long at lunch and the food coming out too slowly when it first opened, he's there to keep a hawk-like eye on things. It hardly seems necessary anymore, as the food comes out quick, hot and fresh, whether you're there for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

My first experience with the Market Square location was over a quick breakfast — or what was meant to be. I ordered two breakfast pitas, not knowing how large they were going to be, and upon seeing the hefty size of each decided to sit down and enjoy them. Sitting in the park that morning felt like a revelation. This is the downtown I'd always hoped to know.

The park is alive once again, like the Market Square of more than a century ago, when Houston's first City Hall and Market House was erected here in 1841. Destroyed twice by fire and rebuilt four different times until the city simply ran out of space in the 1960s, Market Square weathered years of flux and was almost completely empty and unused before finally being revitalized in 2009. It still houses one of the original clocks from the fourth City Hall and Market House on one corner, standing watch as fountains bubble, puppies bark in the adjoining dog park, kids play on the weekends in the grass, and downtown workers amble up to the kiosk and end up staying, like I did, to enjoy the sights and sounds of the city around them.

Breakfast pitas filled to bursting with orange-cinnamon sausage, spinach, hashbrowns, felafel and other items will make you want to stay, too. I remember thinking that day as I ate my way through the felafel pita — the warm, soft bread wrapping easily around the roughly diced felafel rounds and scrambled eggs inside — that in a perfect world, these would be as omnipresent as breakfast tacos or kolaches. They're larger, yes, and perhaps not as easy to transport. But they're every bit as delicious as the finest chorizo taco or sausage kolache — and the unusually named Spartan breakfast pita comes with a fried egg tucked inside, which isn't very spartan at all.

In addition, the food stand is also serving plenty of caffeinated beverages — the industrial-strength Greek coffee is a favorite, as are the cappuccinos topped with a dusting of cinnamon — that add a welcome coffeehouse component to the open-air seating here.
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6 comments
Dan
Dan

How were they able to get a permit when there are no restrooms? No other business owner would be allowed to do this?

Pregomi2
Pregomi2

When will they add a location in the Heights? There is a great location at 18th Street and T. C. Jester that is vacant and waiting for the fine Greek-American dishes that only Niko-Niko's can serve, did you all see Niko-Niko's on the Food channel's Dinner's, Drive-in's, and Dive's? All I can say about Niko-Niko's is OOPH!

Craig
Craig

What's up with all you DWEEBS tweeting about this?

Don't y'all have a single creative bone in your body?

Old Salty
Old Salty

There are restrooms. They're in the rear of the kiosk. What are you talking about?

 
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