By Patrick Donachie
Every morning at 7, Antonis Tsampas arrives at the King Souvlaki food truck in Astoria and prepares the truck for the day’s business. By 10 a.m., the truck is open for business across the borough at the intersection of Northern and Bell boulevards in Bayside, offering passers-by authentic Greek food that Tsampas says lives up to the company’s motto of being a truck offering “Greek on the street.”
“Our priority is to keep it pure and good quality, because that’s what makes us popular,” he said.
King Souvlaki started as a food cart on the streets of Astoria in 1979. George and Tskotas Tsampas took ownership of the cart from their uncle in 1990, and for decades have popularized the business from the intersection of 31st Street and 31st Avenue in Astoria.
The family business continued as such into the next generation with Antonis, George’s son. Antonis said that his brother and cousin also work for the company.
“Family, it’s just the best job you can find,” he said.
Three years ago, the Tsampas brothers made the transition from cart to truck, while still serving the same cuisine in the same Astoria location. Five months ago, the Bayside truck opened for business. For decades, a mutual friend of the Tskotas brothers operated a cart at the corner of Northern and Bell, and they decided to partner with him in order to expand the King Souvlaki brand.
Antonis said the constant foot traffic means big business for the Bayside truck, and he has seen the crowds increase since the truck’s January opening. All the food is prepped in the truck or at the crew’s kitchen in Astoria, with Antonis proudly noting that they cut the French fries themselves, and even import the Greek soft drink Loux to enhance the authenticity of the meal. The crew operates a full charcoal grill in the truck, which Antonis acknowledged was going to make the confines sweltering in the summer months.
“It’s hot,” he said. “But you do what you’ve got to do.”
The Bayside truck remains open until midnight, while the Astoria truck remains open until 5 a.m. Thursdays through Saturdays to catch the late night crowds. Antonis said that much of their business came from positive recommendations on Facebook and Yelp. The Astoria location has gathered more than 100 reviews on Yelp, with an average rating of 4 1/2 out of five stars.
“When you sell good quality, they respect that and they’ll come to you,” Antonis said as another customer stepped to the window. “It’s worth the wait.”
Reach reporter Patrick Donachie by e-mail at pdona