Family tradition and cuisine at the Mad Greek
You could call Chris Chopra, owner of the Mad Greek Restaurant on Fairmount Boulevard, an improbable restaurateur. The former golf pro assumed ownership of the restaurant, essentially by default, following the death of his father, Loki, in 2002.
“It wasn’t something I chose to do. When my dad became ill, it was kind of a no-brainer,” said Chopra. “I didn’t have a whole lot of choice in the matter. It was either that or the restaurant was probably going to shut down.”
Chopra hadn’t been involved in the business previously, other than working there during junior high and high school, and again for a short time after he graduated from college.
Chopra’s mother, Nicki, and father had opened the restaurant on Coventry in 1977, only to see it destroyed, along with three other family-owned businesses, during the Coventry Yard fire that same year.
Undaunted, the Chopra family soon reopened the Mad Greek in its current location on Fairmount Boulevard, taking over the location formerly occupied by a Brown Derby. What began as a Greek restaurant now offers a rare mix of Greek and Indian cuisine—a combination Chopra says you’d be hard-pressed to find anywhere else.
“Preparing those two cuisines under one roof is something we've always done,” said Chopra. "It’s just been part of the family heritage. Dad was from India, my mom’s family was from Greece. We have a niche market, I guess you'd say, with Greek and Indian cuisine. There may be one other restaurant in the world that offers those two cuisines. It’s not something you see.”
Chopra noted that the two styles of cuisine are equally popular with his customers.
When Chopra took over the restaurant, he overhauled the menu and made crucial staffing changes that helped put the business on a solid footing.
Jimmy O’Neill, former owner of Jimmy O'Neill's Tavern on Lee Road, now manages the Mad Greek at night. “Everyone knows Jimmy," said Chopra. "It’s been an interesting combination. He calls himself the Mad Irishman now."
“It isn't the easiest thing to do in the world, but it’s pretty rewarding I think,” said Chopra. ”You kind of learn to love the business, and you kind of get hooked on it after a while.”
”When we added the outdoor patio in 2007, that was really the biggest thing we did,” said Chopra. “”That brought a 20-percent increase in business, I would say. That was a big addition.”
Chopra credits his restaurant's location and loyal customers as keys to his continued success.
”The location is unique. Cedar Fairmount has always been a special area," said Chopra. "There are other places in Cleveland Heights that are great. Coventry is phenomenal, Lee Road does really well, but Cedar Fairmount has been just an awesome area for us."
"Our clientele has always come from the local neighborhood. We also get a lot of customers from Cleveland Clinic, Case Western Reserve University, University Hospitals and John Carroll. We have customers who now live in Chicago and New York," said Chopra, "and whenever they’re in town they come back to the Mad Greek. It’s one of the places that they always come back to, and I hear these stories every day."
The Mad Greek
2466 Fairmount Blvd., Cleveland Heights
Mon., Tues., Wed. 11:30 a.m. to 3:45 p.m., 4–10 p.m.
Thurs. 11:30 a.m. to 3:45 p.m., 4–10:30 p.m.
Fri., Sat. 11:30 a.m. to 3:45 p.m., 4–11 p.m.
Sun. 4–9 p.m.
Richard Stewart is the owner of Digizoom Media and a member of the FutureHeights Board of Directors.