Pop's Family Restaurant was bustling with activity on its grand opening day Monday, located next to Subway where Crab Cakes used to be located. The restaurant was serving up a full menu of items including biscuits and gravy, homemade soups and chili, chicken fried steak, French dips, wraps, and two-pound burritos. In the summer, they'll also begin serving some Greek Food.
For Pop's owners Pete and Ena Zohos, the restaurant is a dream come true that began on the other side of the globe. Pete's journey to Oakhurst began in Greece where he was born, then South Africa followed by Ohio. While living in Ohio, Pete's uncle kept telling him to come to California so they finally moved to Oakhurst where Pete worked with his Uncle Pete at Pete's Place and Pete Zohos became jokingly known as, "Re-Pete." He then briefly worked at Mountain House, then Crab Cakes for a year. Ena worked at Crab Cakes for eight years and, while there, asked owner Roman Zabiki to teach her how to run a restaurant. Working with people came natural to Ena who grew up, beginning at age three, helping her mom with a food stand in South Africa.
Pete's family also had a little ship when he was growing up and when all his friends were out playing soccer, he was in the kitchen cooking with his mom. She was always encouraging and made him feel like it was perfect. "I think that's where he got his talent and scent" to make him a confident cook. Pete doesn't taste test his food to see if the seasonings are right, all he has to do is smell it.
When they decided it was time to open their own restaurant, they went looking all over the country -- from Idaho to Ohio -- looking for the right place but they couldn't find anything they both liked. Finally a friend suggested they check out Pop's located off Highway 49 between Oakhurst and Mariposa. Pete and Ena went to check it out, had breakfast, and while walking out of the restaurant agreed that it was the place. The previous owner said they could change anything about the restaurant, just not the name -- so Pop's it was.
"It was nice and we met some really good people and worked out all the kinks like not switching recipes," Ena laughed.
Pete and Ena owned and ran the restaurant for five years but, because of its location, it only served locals and no tourists which made it hard financially.
"We tried moving to Mariposa and four times it didn't work out but I believe everything happens for a reason," Ena said.
Then one day, Ena and Pete received a phone call from Zabiki, saying he'd signed the lease to move into a bigger restaurant location, leaving the old Crab Cakes building open.
"I think it was meant to be," Ena said. "We're excited, it's a new chapter in our life. This is the dream, honestly it is."
The restaurant is a family affair with sons Perry, 18, and Jonathan, 16, helping out.
"They pretend they don't know much but they know most everything about the business," Ena said. "They have grow up knowing what happens in the kitchen and behind the scenes and it makes them appreciate it more."
Even the Zohos' 17-moth-old son Dimitris, affectionately known as the "executive chef," spends some time at the restaurant. Ena says she likes having her sons working with her so she knows where they are and what they're doing.
"I like instilling in the kids how important family is. Friends and girlfriends come and go but family is always there and go through ups and downs together."
"I'm happy," Ena said. "I have a hard-working husband who loves me, loves his kids to death -- we have a good life but work hard for it ... It's all about how willing you are to learn and how hard you work. We've been lucky and had good mentors through our life and I think that's what helped. If it weren't for Pete (Uncle Pete) and Roman and my mom and his mom, we wouldn't be where we are today."
Pop's will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday (summer hours will be extended to 9 p.m.) and from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday.