The Magician of Main Street

Karl Vela |
Food And Dining

Tom Konidaris is a legend. He’s the area’s go-to man for fresh and inspired Greek cuisine and has been a fixture in the community on Main Street in Manayunk since their localized economic boomed in the ‘90s. It was during that time that Manayunk became what it is today, and all the popular restaurants and stores came to be. It was also during this time that Konidaris was able to bring his passion for fresh and healthy Mediterranean cuisine to maturity in the form of Zesty’s Restaurant. Today, it is an epicurean pillar not only in Manayunk but the greater Philadelphia area as well, garnering praise from regulars and first-time guests from all over the area.

While there is a litany of Mediterranean restaurants for foodies to choose from in Philly, Konidaris has been able to set himself apart based on two sincere and enchanting principals. The first is an unwavering dedication to the integrity of his food, both in freshness and healthfulness. Simply strolling by the restaurant, passers-by are greeted with an enormous marble-lined fish display showing the daily selections of fresh seafood flown in straight from the Mediterranean Sea. Greek favorites like branzino and dorado are accented by varieties most American foodies would be unfamiliar with, such as the barbouni, a very small crimson fish with a subtle yet completely unique flavor not found anywhere else. This is a mainstay on the menu and one of Konidaris’s personal favorites. “This is the best fish in the world,” he says. “I would happily eat it every day of my life.”

Although well-known and heralded for the fresh and dedicated approach to seafood, Zesty’s has much more to offer the common appetite. The lamb and chicken adhere to equally stringent standards of freshness, and are always charbroiled in the traditional Greek fashion to preserve the flavor of the meat and not dress or disguise the basic savory elements and textures of the dish. 

Guests can also look forward to many vegetarian options debuting on the menu this spring and summer, as Konidaris makes his customary seasonal shift in the restaurant’s offerings. “To me, the spring and summer are about light and refreshing tastes,” Konidaris says. His menu is a true reflection of this belief; dishes featuring local eggplant, zucchini, and spinach are sure to be among the favorites, delicately accented by fresh herbs like marjoram, mint, and cinnamon. 

All of this focus and dedication directed at fresh and healthy food is not without inspiration. Recalling his youth, growing up on a small Greek island, Konidaris talks about eating what was around him. “I grew up eating what was caught from the sea or grown in my backyard,” he says. This upbringing not only gave him an undeniable love of fresh food, but it prevented him from leaning on heavy, over-seasoned, and processed foods that often seem to dominate our restaurant and food culture. “I have a deep respect for where I come from,” Konidaris says proudly, “and I need to have that same respect for my food.”

This deep-seated appreciation for life and love of food traverses every avenue of Konidaris’s life, and it is abundantly clear from the moment you walk into Zesty’s. It seems that every single person who walks into the restaurant is a close friend of Konidaris—or if they aren’t already, they soon will be. “Many people are satisfied simply with having customers, but that’s not enough for me. I want people to come into my restaurant not just to have a good meal, but also to see and talk to me, and have a great overall experience. To me and my friends, this is not just a restaurant. It’s a second home.”

You certainly would be swimming against the tide if you expected or wanted to come into Zesty's and be left alone. The staff is beyond accommodating and Konidaris is always buzzing between the kitchen and the restaurant making sure each and every guest is welcomed and each and every dish meets his rigorous standards. 

It’s not enough for us to tell you to stop in for the great food, because Zesty’s is not just about food—it is so much more than that. For the guests of the restaurant, it is all about a feeling of respect and belonging, the basic elements that make a space feel like home. While the cuisine is fresh and undeniably delicious, it is just one component of the character that makes Zesty’s of Main Street the crown jewel of the Manayunk strip.