PARK SLOPE – On December 4th, George Constantinou opened up his fourth restaurant with his husband, Farid Ali – a modern Greek spot called Medusa Greek Taverna. The couple now operates three restaurants within two-blocks in Park Slope— Bogota, which came first in 2005, Miti Miti, which opened in 2014, and now Medusa, the latest addition. Their fourth spot, Miti Miti New Jersey, opened in 2018 in South Orange, where Constantinou and Ali live with their two children.
Medusa Greek Tavern is cleanly decorated, with covered chandeliers, a minimal bar, a neon Medusa head right next to the hostess stand, mixing traditional and contemporary. So far, the neighborhood has been loving it, Constantinou says.
“Things have been going great. There really is no Greek restaurant in this neighborhood that I think has a vibe that we’re going to create. You walk into this place, you can see there’s a design element to it. It’s got a cool vibe to it,” Constantinou said.
This “vibe” is something that the pair is known for in the neighborhood – their other two spots are busy, with music and drinks flowing. Although unique, the proximity of the three spots was never a question.
“I’ve always admired, I guess this sounds cliche, but Danny Meyer’s approach of opening up restaurants with different themes within walking distance. When Bogota first opened it was an instant success. Folks would always [say] ‘Oh, open up one in Astoria, open up one in Manhattan, go to Williamsburg,’ and honestly as an owner that never appealed to me. I feel like I would be crazy being stuck in a car all day long,” Constantinou said.
The path to opening up Medusa was a long one. Constantinou signed the lease on the space, which was meant to be a turnkey situation from the previous restaurant tenant, in 2018. It quickly became clear that the space wasn’t in the shape they had hoped, and that a whole gut renovation would have to follow. From there, SBA loans and the liquor authority provided further roadblocks.
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“It’s crazy enough that you need to focus on opening your restaurant, marketing, staff, and training, but behind the scenes you have to worry about liquor license, the health department,” Constantinou said. Medusa finally got their hands on their liquor license last week, after having been approved already for months.
With the opening of Medusa, Constantinou’s heritage, as well as Ali’s, are almost directly reflected in the restaurants they own. Constantinou was born to Costa Rican and Greek immigrants. He grew up eating a unique mix of dishes at home, something he credits for his strong palate.
“My dad was a tailor [and] my mom was a housecleaner. My mom worked for a lot of rich families in Long Island, and she learned how to cook, obviously, she grew up and knew how to cook Latin [food], then she knew how to cook American food, then she learned Greek food from my dad. Any day of the week we’d have moussaka, or my mom would make gallo pinto, which was a Costa Rican dish, or we’d have like, chicken pot pie. My friends were, like, ‘What the heck is this?’. I was exposed to all these different foods,” Constantinou said.
Despite the stress, the long construction time on Medusa did provide a blessing for Constantinou.
“Because the construction was taking so long, I did a father-son trip to Greece and Cyprus over the summer. My dad and I went backpacking and hung out in Athens. [We] just explored and got to eat food and try things. So, it was a good bonding trip with my dad, but also a good exploration of Greek cuisine and drinks,” Constantinou said.
The menu at Medusa features a lot of these greek classics. Pastitsio, spanakopita, loukaniko (a Greek sausage), and horiataki (Greek village salad) are all popular menu items.
With the new addition of the liquor license comes an entirely Greek wine list— though Constantinou says more wines from neighboring countries may be added later. The spot also has an extensive mocktail list, as well as Greek sodas, and an Athenian lager. Eventually, the spot will have a full bar, but is still waiting on liquor deliveries.
“It’s exciting, because Medusa is a new cuisine. Not that I’m tired of the other restaurants, but I haven’t had a taco in like, a month,” Constantinou said with a laugh. He is on-site at Medusa typically five days a week, making sure that he has weekends with his family in New Jersey.
“I think every new restaurant kind of sucks you in, and maybe for the first three months it’s difficult and you want to make sure there are things that are done. But, I would say after three restaurants under my belt, I hire the managers, I trust that the managers can do the job. Whereas, in the beginning, it was just me and my husband. We were the managers, we were everything seven days a week. It was hard to give up control. Now I think I understand if I want my sanity, and I have kids, and I want a good life-work balance – I have to give up control,” Constantinou said.
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Constantinou’s road to Medusa was a storied one, told with jobs at MTV, teaching English in Japan, working for an internet marketing company, and becoming the manager at a Fort Greene restaurant within two weeks of being hired as a bartender.
“When I graduated college, it’s always like you are right then and there with all this energy and excitement. What do I do with my life? Do I go left, do I go right? Me and my friends would talk and be like, ‘Oh, I wish I could just jump to the future 20 years and see what happened.’ I’m like, holy cow, I’m there. I must have made some right moves,” Constantinou said.
Medusa Greek Taverna is located at 133 5th Avenue, between Sterling and St. John’s places. They are open Monday to Thursday from 4pm – 11pm, Friday from 4pm- 12am, Saturday from 12pm-12am, and Sunday from 12pm-11pm. Medusa is also available for delivery on Uber Eats and DoorDash.