Salvaridis, 28, bargained on becoming an airline pilot, but he grounded himself in 2006 to open George's Famous Gyros in Scottsdale. He became a restaurateur at 24, barely older than his family's 20-year old tzatziki recipe, and altogether too damn young to have a Plan B.
Yet here it is: gyro euphoria. The original is a good place to start, seasoned meat piled high in a thick pita with just enough onions, tomatoes, and homemade tzatziki sauce to complement. Next up, the Fry Girl favorite — the Gyro Picado. Like a kick to the Greek groin, the Picado serves up flavorful meat with a spicy helping of grilled onions, peppers, and jalapeños.
"I pretty much copied everything from my Dad," says Salvaridis. A first-generation Greek growing up in Chicago, Salvaridis pimped pitas in his father's eateries since he was 8 years old. The family moved to Greece for a while before landing in Arizona, where Pops continued to open restaurants and Salvaridis went to aviation school. By the time he graduated, the airline industry was shot, and his restaurant plans were put into action.
Pick a pita, then order up George's crazy-addictive French fries, whose popularity, Salvaridis tells me, is due to his changing the oil every four days. If you check in on a chili day, grab a bowl fast. Half gyro meat, half beef, Salvaridis dreamed up this fiery concoction after watching a Wendy's commercial at 3 a.m. He had shelved it for the summer until customers started to complain.
The latest addition to George's? "Z," or Zlatko Redzic. Originally from Croatia, Z was a regular while attending Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts. Following a stint at John Henry's in Tempe, Salvaridis asked the 23-year-old to be co-owner and chef.
After boasting about a regular diner who fills a soda cup with tzatziki and sips it through a straw, Z spills on a "secret menu" he offers to George's die-hards that includes his own brand of burger, which he claims to be the best in town. Young and spirited, Z and Salvaridis are a match made in pita paradise, poised to open a second location in the coming months.
So, does Salvaridis ever think about taking to the skies again?
"I can still fly a girl to Sedona for breakfast," he laughs, "that license comes in handy."