Ziki Plots Global Culinary Domination
Local startup of Greek/Mexican cuisine potentially unstoppable
By Wayne Alan Brenner,
3:05PM, Mon. Jan. 16, 2023
Sometimes you can tell a lot by the little things.
Like how Van Halen had that “no brown M&Ms” rider in their contract, to be sure concert promoters had read the entire damned document and all the band’s complicated pyrotechnic needs would also be taken care of, right?
How appropriate, then, that the little thing we’re talking about in this context is also the item from which the local food startup Ziki gets its name: The tzatziki sauce you’ll get at these roaming kitchens of Nick Nanakos that are popping up all over Austin.
Because, yes, the food at Ziki is real good, like you’d expect to get from a popular food truck. The Greek or the Greek-and-Mexican fusion dishes – the so-called zurritos, that are like a cross between a gyro and a burrito, and feature beef or pork or chicken or veggies; the Feta Fig Smashburger, that’s thick and tasty with its grass-fed beef and slab of melting feta and sweet fig spread and drizzle of balsamic vinegar; the falafel bites, and so on – you could nom on any of these and feel like, yeah, that’s money well spent. Won’t upend your whole worldview of what constitutes solid foodtruckery or the culinary world in general, but will sure ’nuff make your mouth and stomach happy.
But that sauce? That tzatziki sauce?
It’s just yogurt, cucumber, garlic, olive oil, little bit of lemon juice, some spices, right?
But the tzatziki sauce at Ziki is the best tzatziki sauce your current reporter has ever had in his mouth.
I mean, I spent two high-school years living in Greece – I’ve had some great Greek food. And I don’t mean that Ziki’s sauce is the best “from a food truck.” I don’t only mean, “including fine, sit-down fancy Greek restaurants.” I mean, “even considering what I used to get at lunch or dinner at tavernas on the coast of the Aegean Sea.” For real. It’s so creamy, so tangy, so redolent of freshness that I fantasized for a moment that Ziki founder Nanakos had, in a moment of insanity, paid Kevin Fink or Jesse Griffiths thousands of dollars to forage the dill right out of the fucking ground for use in his relentless, take-over-the-entire-world plot.
Which is the other thing: This “plot” I’m alluding to. My tongue’s in my cheek, of course, but I’m only half-joking. Because Nanakos isn’t joking. As recently mentioned over at Austonia, the man is planning a “multi-decade, global-scale conquest to build the most significant company to ever exist in food." And, toward this goal, he’s got the support of Gigafund – the venture capital group who also back Elon Musk’s SpaceX and The Boring Company.
"The most significant company to ever exist in food," he says.
No wonder that alliterative name, Nick Nanakos, sounds straight outta the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s almost odd that he’s not sporting a foodservice Infinity Gauntlet.
But a guy of Greek heritage, surely he’s familiar with the term “hubris,” too, right?
You – okay, I – kind of wanna roll eyes and tell him, “Yeah, dude, your food is good. The whole Greek/Mexican fusion concept and execution is *chef’s kiss*. And I know you’re partnering with local organic farms, and you’ve got some kind of righteous vendetta against seed oil … but, srsly, if success was just a matter of delicious flavors and much health and personal elbow grease, surely Jack and Bryce Gilmore – or maybe Sonya Cote or Jo Chan – not to mention the growing Hopdoddy chain – would have conquered half the galaxy by now. And, yeah, mobile kitchens are so much more economically smooth than brick-and-mortar, but –”
And that’s where I’d have to shut my mouth.
Because, with this Ziki, it’s as much about the little things – that tzatziki sauce – as it is about the big things: Ziki produces its own mobile kitchens, its own modular restaurants, that can be transported and set down anywhere. At whatever size is best suited to a given location.
It’s — here’s a current buzz-phrase for you – vertically integrated.
Because Nanakos’ mother runs Greek restaurants in New York, you see, and his father runs a construction business. The Ziki food and the restaurants themselves are all made in-house. The food is supplied by local sources and processed via local ghost kitchens (in this case, Ziki’s epicenter, it’s big ol’ burgeoning Prep ATX), and the restaurants are built by Nanakos’ own company.
Okay, so maybe “global-scale conquest” is possible, Nick, you Sparta-spawned entrepreneur.
But, tbh, we’ll leave that for the business journals to cover.
We’ll just keep visiting Ziki (there’s five locations in Austin, and they’re gearing up for SXSW) for that Feta Fig Burger and those zurritos and the bowls and –
Yeah, especially that tzatziki sauce.