Most recipes that have been around for decades also come with a good story on how it came to be. Tampa Bay’s own Greek salad recipe is no exception.
Those of you who have lived here for a while and love our area’s Greek salad for its surprise, it’s always fun to watch the face of someone who is trying it for the first time. They dig into their crisp lettuce and tomatoes only to uncover something deep at the center. What could this be? Why it is potato salad, of course!
If you go to any other part of the country and order a Greek salad, you won’t find anything hidden in the salad. So how is it then, that potato salad become a part of the local Greek Salad?
There are many stories, but they all center around Louis Pappas and his famous Pappas Greek Restaurant in Tarpon Springs. This is the story that makes the most sense to me, and it is most often told this way:
Back in the 1950s Louis Pappas had a big catering order cancel at the last minute leaving him with lots of prepared food, including gallons of freshly prepared potato salad. Since all meals at that time were accompanied by a Greek salad, Louis told the kitchen staff to put a scoop of potato salad underneath every Greek salad that was served. The people loved it so much that they began to ask for it in their Greek salads when they went to the restaurant. To this day, the Tampa Bay area is the only place you’ll find a yummy, creamy scoop of potato salad under a Greek salad.
If you don’t believe me, just try ordering a Greek salad in another part of the country. Or better yet, ask them if their Greek salad has potato salad in it and watch them look at you as if you’ve lost your mind!
A Quick Primer in a Tampa Bay Greek Salad
1. Place a scoop of your favorite potato salad on a plate or in a bowl.
2. Top the potato salad with iceberg (no other lettuce will do), sliced onions, sliced tomatoes, sliced cucumbers, sliced beets (optional), feta cheese and kalamata olives.
3. Drizzle on a vinaigrette of extra virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar or lemon juice, dried oregano and basil.
Dig in and enjoy a true Tampa Bay original recipe!
Here are some Central Tampa restaurants that offer a Greek salad: