KODIAK, Alaska — Kodiak now has a Greek restaurant, but the new addition to the island's cuisine came about only because of a last-minute itinerary change for its founders.
From a white building on Rezanof Drive, Sparrows serves up gyros, Greek pizzas and a rotating menu of about five different specials each day. It almost didn't happen.
Sparrows owner and chef Alfredo Garcia arrived in Kodiak with his wife on May 1, the day before they returned to Greece after giving up on ventures in Anchorage and Valdez. They quickly realized they liked Kodiak and decided the community would be a great place to open a Greek restaurant.
"We love the town," Garcia said. "It's amazing."
Garcia is originally from Los Angeles but lived and worked in Europe from 1998 to 2011. He worked in Greece as the executive chef for Oro Toro, an upscale steakhouse chain in Europe.
Garcia and his wife moved to Valdez in May 2011 because work wasn't good in Greece after the economic crash in late 2009.
"The crisis hit quickly," he said. "After the crash, we came to Alaska."
Garcia chose Alaska because he had spent time in Valdez during the 1990s. When they moved to Valdez last summer Garcia worked for Mike's Palace, a sit-down restaurant that served pasta, pizza and burgers. Last winter they moved to Anchorage looking for a better job, and by the spring they were ready to return to Greece because Alaska wasn't what they were hoping for.
At the suggestion of a friend, they stopped in Kodiak the day before they returned to Greece.
"We came here one day before we were leaving for Greece," Garcia said. "We said we had given up on Alaska and we were leaving. Then we came here."
Garcia's wife, Betty, said the Kodiak community has been extremely supportive of their dream to open up a restaurant. "In Greece you can't make dreams," she said. "Here I have dreams. The town is amazing and the people want us to be successful."
With the help of individuals and local Kodiak businesses, Garcia was able to open Sparrows in just four months.
The restaurant has been busy since its soft opening in September and offers both take out and sit-down service.
With the exception of the onion rings and the steak fries, all foods are homemade. When making the food, Garcia prefers to work with fresh ingredients because he cooked with fresh ingredients in Europe.
"It's hard to keep fresh ingredients here," he said. "That's how we do it in Europe, though."
Garcia imports lamb and feta cheese from Greece and plans to import some meat from Scotland through his previous work connections.
Information from: Kodiak (Alaska) Daily Mirror, http://www.kodiakdailymirror.com