Being in the food business comes naturally to Aris Galanis. Born and raised in Rhodes, Greece, Galanis spent his early years working first in the family restaurant and later for a meat processing company. So it’s no surprise that when he came to America to attend Abilene Christian University, his major was … pre-med?
“Yes, I originally wanted to be a surgeon,” Galanis said with a laugh, “but then life happened. I met my wife, Kelly, at ACU and we moved back to Greece for me to go to medical school. But with a baby on the way and other responsibilities, I ended back up in the meat business instead!”
Galanis became part-owner of a meat market, processing and curing his own sausages and hams. Business was booming and “life was good,” he said, but in 2000, the couple decided to return to the States so their children — Yianni, Dorothy and Lenna — could attend college.
Kelly, a Waco native, pursued a teaching career, and Aris used his knowledge to become the seafood manager at H-E-B before opening Yianni’s restaurant in West.
In 2007, a friend asked Aris to take over 1424 Bistro, named for its location at 1424 Washington Ave. He operated both restaurants for five months, but soon decided to close Yianni’s and focus on 1424 — allowing him more time to spend with his family.
Kelly, now retired from teaching, helps manage the restaurant. Although Aris is the head chef, Kelly loves to cook and often teaches herself new recipes.
“When I first met Aris, I got a Greek cookbook and taught myself how to make sweets,” Kelly said, “and I would leave them in his car as a surprise. The only real disaster was when I first made baklava. I didn’t know you could buy phyllo dough so I made it myself … the layers didn’t turn out too well!”
More Than Greek
Aris’ Greek roots certainly influence the menu, but he and Kelly like to think of 1424 as more of a European bistro than a strictly Greek or Mediterranean restaurant. Many of the original recipes were passed on from the previous owner, but the offerings have expanded since Aris took over.
“I try to put new ideas on the menu, but sometimes it’s hard,” Aris said. “People don’t always want to try something new, but I really think they would like it if they try it.”
One example of this is Chef Aris’ special octopus appetizer. Braised with fresh tomatoes, garlic and onions, this family recipe has quickly become a crowd favorite. Another popular appetizer is saganaki — a thick slice of kasseri cheese sautéed in a skillet and served flaming.
Even though Aris spent years learning all about different meats — how to break them down, make them tender, and how best to cook them to bring out their flavor — his true passion is seafood. The fish is shipped in fresh from the coast and prepared with both local ingredients and specialty items brought back from vacations in Greece.
Most seafood dishes range in price from $20 to $30, and you’ll often see original specials on the menu alongside the regular offerings. Kelly’s favorite is the mahi-mahi, which is stuffed with a dressing of crab and shrimp, topped with sun-dried tomatoes, and served with a medley of carrots and sugar snap peas sautéed with garlic.
If you’re not in the mood for seafood, 1424 also offers a variety of chicken, beef, pork and lamb items. A twist on the classic beef Wellington is available for $25, which includes a side of basmati rice pilaf along with seared onions and peppers. A slow-roasted lamb shank topped with a white wine mushroom sauce and served with your choice of two vegetables costs $18, and a chicken piccata with one vegetable runs $17. Salad and fresh bread are included with all entrees.
Shortly after taking over the restaurant, Aris purchased the building next door — allowing him to expand the kitchen and dining room. A brick tunnel now connects the bar and lobby to the main dining room, adding to the European feel of the bistro and providing a perfect photo background for patrons — some of whom come just to enjoy the bar and the decadent desserts.
The most popular dessert is the white chocolate bread pudding. Served warm and drizzled with white chocolate sauce, this dessert is one you won’t want to share. Another favorite is crème brulee — offered in both vanilla and chocolate flavors and torched to order to create that perfect, sugary crust on top.
1424 is a popular location for graduation dinners, business meetings, and date nights. There have been numerous proposals at the restaurant, and even a wedding.
“I love a good love story,” Kelly said, “and we’ve been so blessed to be a part of so many through the restaurant. My son met his wife when they were both working here, and we’ve had several other couples meet and fall in love while working here, too.”
Samuel Azide and Anitria Flores didn’t meet at 1424, but they will never forget the first time they ate dinner there. Azide knew early on that Flores was the woman he wanted to marry, and when the time came to propose, he wanted to go big.
“I decided to propose with a flash mob,” Azide said. “I called around to several places, and they were by far the most excited to help me even though we had never even been there before — their excitement definitely helped make the whole thing happen.”
After months of carefully planning, hand-picking dancers from their circle of friends and family, and having Saturday morning rehearsals at the restaurant (which Kelly graciously opened up just for the practices), the big day arrived.
“He told me to dress up because he wanted to go out and celebrate his graduation,” Flores said. “When he started singing and dancing, I still didn’t realize what was going on. Sam actually dances all the time in public, so it was totally normal to me until someone handed me a rose and started dancing along, too!”
Flores said yes and the couple is now in the final stages of wedding planning. The proposal was videotaped and soon went viral on YouTube. That day may have been their first visit to 1424, but it certainly wasn’t the last, as the restaurant has now become a date-night staple for Azide and Flores.
The success of the restaurant no longer allows for Galanis family vacations, but Aris and Kelly still love to visit Greece when they can — spending time with Aris’ parents, fishing on the island, and discovering new menu ideas. Their children are pursuing their own passions, including Dorothy, who followed in her father’s footsteps and opened Alpha Omega on Franklin Avenue.
The restaurant is open in the evenings Tuesday through Sundays for dinner and for Sunday lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Aris sees his busy schedule as a blessing, but is happy to let Kelly cook on Mondays when the restaurant is closed while he spends time working with his sheepdogs on 39 acres of land they own outside of town.
“When I was a teenager, I said never in my life would I be in the restaurant business,” Aris said, “but now I am and I love it. I guess you never know how life can turn you around!”
1424 Washington Ave.
Tue-Sat, 5 to 9 p.m.
Sun, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., 5 to 9 p.m.
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