Ten Things I’ve Learned About Demetri’s

Lee Hurley

Photo by Janie Shelswell-White

  1. Demetri Nakos started a restaurant called El Rancho in 1961. He changed the name in 1973 to Demetri’s.

  2. Demetri was born in Corfu, Greece in 1922.  He had three sons: George Sam and Dean. They all grew up in Mountain Brook.

  3. Sam was the only son interested in the barbecue business so he attended “The College of Demetri’s Barbecue” right after high school in 1978.

  4. Sam because close friends with Eli Stevens who owned Lloyd’s Restaurant and recently passed away at 84. “I learned so much from Eli,” Sam says. “He worked his people hard but never as hard as he worked himself.”

  5. Sam’s philosophy of cooking: “It’s about process. It’s seeing what to do but just as importantly what not to do. It’s gauging food by look and time and temperature.  I’m always looking to unlock the right combination of ingredients and sometimes you get it and in doing that you make a great dish. I spent half the morning on a cranberry sauce, trying to get the sugar level right up to point where it equalizes with the cranberry’s more tart taste. Getting things right takes time.”

  6. Most ordered items at Demetri’s: Chopped Pork Plate. Second is the Grilled Chicken Sandwich with Slaw.

  7. Sam lived in a condo across the street from Demetri’s for 15 years. He used to joke that it stressed him to count the cars in Demetri’s parking lot. Too many cars and he felt like he needed to go help. Too few cars and he was worried about business.

  8. The devil is in the details. Sam noticed an abandoned piece of pie on the table with one bite missing. He grabbed a fork, walked over to the pie and cut into it. It was partially frozen. He stopped the kitchen staff for a teachable moment.

  9. During the pandemic Sam shut his restaurant down to remodel, something he had been saving up for a decade.
  10. Demetri’s is now closed for dinner but sells draft beer for those who want a “celebration lunch.”