Mike Kourkoutakis, a new restaurant owner in the area, looks a little like Anthony Quinn.
In fact, he says hes good friends with the actor. He met Quinn years ago when he owned a Greek restaurant in the San Francisco area. Fittingly, it was called Zorba the Greek.
Quinn would come in with Frank Sinatra to what Kourkoutakis describes as his highly successful restaurant to eat a good Greek meal and catch the live entertainment.
We had good music and a lot of people come in from all over the world. he said. The only one we couldnt get in to sing was Elvis Presley.
Kourkoutakis sold his restaurant of 25 years and bought a motel with a small restaurant recently.
He went in with his three daughters from San Francisco to buy it.
From Brookings, go across the border past the bug station (agricultural inspection station) and people will see the bright blue Pelican Beach Motel and Zorba the Greek restaurant, named for his restaurant in San Francisco, immediately to their left.
The front of the restaurant is all windows so diners get an ocean view across the highway from Pelican State Beach while they enjoy pizza or Greek food.
Kourkoutakis is a five-star chef. From Crete, he has been preparing Greek food all his life.
Recently a friend and competitor of his joined him at Zorba the Greek restaurant.
Antoine Daoud, an executive chef (the highest chef rating), sold his restaurant near Kourkoutakis old restaurant in the San Francisco area to come to Smith River.
Daoud, a Greek from Istanbul, has cooked in Rome, North Africa, and cities in California. In the 1960s he prepared Mediterranean food for King Addrise of North Africa.
Hes the head of the kitchen, Kourkoutakis said. I stay out of his sight so he can do what he wants. I am the executive pizza man, he laughs. I make a good pizza I make everything from scratch.
There are many Greek foods on the menu. Spanakopita is a mixture of spinach, feta and cottage cheeses wrapped in a flaky filo dough.
Avgolemono soup is a delicate creamy soup with chicken lemon and egg.
Galaktobourico is a Greek custard pie made with filo dough and a honey syrup. The rest are a little easier to pronounce. And there is a wide variety of pizzas, including Greek.
Kourkoutakis lost his father, a soldier, in World War II, when he was a boy.
When they killed my father, I no went to school no school for me. I had to go to work when I was 14; I do everything I can to make a buck so we have food to eat, he said.
Kourkoutakis didnt start out in the restaurant business. He played soccer professionally starting at the age of 17.
I was good, he said. Scouts from Athens were looking for good players.
He played for the national team of Greece, and later played for a team in Germany. He signed with the Cosmos from New York in 1963 and hes been in the United States ever since.
His talents dont stop there. Kourkoutakis is a Greek musician and dancer. He began singing, playing guitar, and dancing in restaurants and places of live entertainment when he was about 17.
From 1973 to 1979 he was part of Anthony Quinns U.S. concert tour as one of the Greek dancers.
(Quinn) had the worst temper in the world, said Kourkoutakis. You gotta go his way. We would dance and many times Id tell him, Look, thats not the way we do it in Greece. Hed get mad.
Kourkoutakis had a chance to dance in the movie, Zorba the Greek, in the late 1950s, but had to reluctantly decline, he said.
He couldnt take time away from his soccer playing in the United States to go to Crete where it was being filmed.
Through his restaurant, Kourkoutakis has made friends with other famous people as well. Hes good friends with James Caan, the actor, he said. A photograph of them together hangs on the restaurant wall.
He had a night club, too. Many times Id come down and visit when hes not busy, said Kourkoutakis.
I used to cook for John Wayne in Mexico on his boat he had a 146-foot mine sweeper, Kourkoutakis said. He converted it to a yacht to do marlin fishing.
When Wayne was near death he called Kourkoutakis to his home.
He said, Take this box here, said Kourkoutakis.
When he got home and opened the box, he found John Waynes gun collection from the movies he had been in.
Im 67 and I played soccer all my life, Kourkoutakis said. I never smoked, never drinked. But I hurt my leg recently running on the beach. If I wouldnt have that, Id be still running and dancing.
Were gonna have the best food in the world here, he said. Were gonna make it like a Greek Taverna, and change the name to Greek.
He boasts a little about their food: A few weeks ago a man got up from his chair and said, People, I just came back from Greece heres my passport to prove it; Im telling you. its better food than Greece!
Zorba the Greek restaurant is open Tuesday through Sunday from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. There is free delivery to Brookings-Harbor and Smith River. Call (707) 487-3316 or toll free (877) 519-0900.