Braddock’s Best interview: Eleni Linardakis of Spartans Family Restaurant

Voters approve $360M school bond - Children ages 5-11 now eligible for Pfizer vaccine

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An interview with Eleni Linardakis of Spartans Family Restaurant

The Braddock’s Best-winning restaurant is truly a family operation

This is the first in a series of interviews with the people behind the winning restaurants in our inaugural reader survey, Braddock’s Best.

Today we’re talking to Eleni Linardakis of Spartans Family Restaurant, which won first place in the “Best Family Restaurant” category. The interview was conducted by Braddock Buzz author Austin Wright, and the transcript has been edited for length and clarity.

Q: Hi, Eleni! So Spartans was started in 1995 by your parents?

Yes! My mom and dad came from Greece. They were 20 years old and barely had $20. My mom was a seamstress, and my dad had worked in different restaurants and always wanted to own a restaurant. I was 16 when they opened Spartans.

Q: Why did you decide to make Spartans your career?

So, I went to George Mason and got a degree in public relations. But I always loved working with my parents, my family. I’ve never worked anywhere else. Around the time I got married, we opened the other restaurant, Olympians in Alexandria. My husband is from Warrenton–his parents had a restaurant there. So that was the route we were going.

Q: This is truly a family-run operation.

Yes. My brother, husband, sister, cousins, aunt, uncle, myself, and of course my mom all work together. In 2007, my dad passed away. It was sudden–he was only 52. That rocked our world. He loved Spartans, so, in turn, we do too. He used to be like, “I love the restaurant more than my kids.” People would think, “Oh my gosh, is he crazy?” But he would say, “If it weren’t for Spartans, I wouldn’t be able to provide for my kids.” My parents, they were all about the guests. They became friends with the guests. People were coming to our house. For my wedding, we closed the restaurant, because we were like, we spend more time with our staff and team than anybody else, so how could we have a wedding and them not be there?

Q: You seem to be able to attract a very professional staff who stay with you for a long time.

We've had some of our staff here since we opened. We try to treat everybody like they're part of our family and lead by example. My dad was always like that. You can’t expect your staff to treat guests well, or treat each other well, if you’re treating them poorly. If there’s a complaint from a guest, I tell everybody on our team–they all know–you just solve it. You don’t come find me or call me. If a guest doesn’t like their food, you get them something else and take it off the check. Because they know I wouldn’t tell them any different. 

Q: You seem to have a lot of customer loyalty, as well.

Our guests, they want to come here and feel good. And you never know what somebody’s going through. One time, when I was younger, my dad was teaching me how to drive. And he said, “Never follow close behind someone who's going slow. You don't know what's going on in their life. You don't know what happened. You don't know anything about their situation.” On the day he passed away, I noticed I was driving slow in the left lane and people were right behind me. And I remember, in that moment, I was like, “Oh my gosh, they have no idea that my life just turned upside down.” It’s the same with the guests. We don't know how their day went. Even our staff, we want them to come in here and know that things are going to be good, that things are going to be consistent.

Q: What do you mean by “consistent?”

That was a big thing for my dad. He always said, “You have to be consistent.” It means greeting guests and staff with a smile every day. But we also have consistency in our ordering. My uncle will not veer from the brands we use. With COVID, that’s been hard, because things are so hard to get–they’re out of this and they’re out of that. We’ve been sold out of crab cakes and calamari because we can’t get the brand that we always use. Sometimes our vendors try to send us something different and we’re like, “No, we can’t use it,” because, God forbid, it tastes a little different. We have to be consistent.

Q: If someone came here for the first time, what would you tell them to order? What’s the essential Spartans?

We always are super consistent on the meat we get–both the gyro and the chicken. Every day we're cutting chicken and we're marinating chicken. The most popular items are the Greek salad with grilled chicken, the gyro, and also the chicken souvlaki. We also recently started a trio dip where we make the spicy feta, tzatziki, and hummus. If we love it, we're going to serve it. 

Q: When I was here, I got the trio dip and it was great.

Oh my gosh, that's my favorite. I'm obsessed. I'm always sending people the trio dip, just because I like it so much.

Q: I also had the Greek bowl with chicken–delicious.

That's a new COVID creation. My cousin would always make a Greek bowl to eat on her own. I thought, since she loves it so much–let’s make it! It’s been super popular. 

Q: Spartans won Braddock’s Best in the “family restaurant” category. What makes Spartans a great place specifically for families?

A big reason is that everybody can get what they want. If I’m in the mood for spaghetti, one of my kids wants pizza, another wants chicken–we can all order what we want. I also feel like, at Spartans, it’s OK if your kids are “outgoing,” because my kids are here too. My sister was born into the restaurant. She used to come here every Friday night and the guests would be babysitting her because my mom was working. They would pass her around. My dad used to always tell us, “We're part of the community.” 

Election 2021

Voters approve $360M school bond: In last week’s election, Fairfax County voters overwhelmingly approved a $360 million school bond. This will fund renovation projects throughout FCPS, including two in the Braddock District: a $38 million expansion of Bonnie Brae Elementary and a $30 million overhaul of Wakefield Forest Elementary.

Overall, voter turnout in Fairfax County was 55%, just shy of the 56% who voted in the 2017 governor’s race. The county’s early voting rate was 39%, down from 69% last year but still a significant increase from pre-COVID levels, per numbers released by Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay.

The county’s unofficial results are here.

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  • Tuesday, Nov. 9: The Board of Supervisors will hold a hearing to consider proposed redistricting plans. New local election districts are expected to be adopted on Dec. 7.

  • Tuesday, Nov. 9: Fairfax County’s new police chief, Kevin Davis, will speak at a 7 p.m. community engagement meeting hosted by the West Springfield District Community Advisory Committee. Dial-in instructions are in the latest edition of Braddock District Supervisor James Walkinshaw’s newsletter.

  • Thursday, Nov. 11: The Friends of Accotink Creek and the Fairfax County Restoration Project will hold a Veteran’s Day cleanup event along Americana Drive, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. More info here.

  • Sunday, Nov. 14: The Friends of Lake Accotink Park will host its monthly park cleanup, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., starting at the Lake Accotink Marina. Register here.

  • Tuesday, Nov. 16: The Braddock District Land Use and Environment Committee will hold a virtual meeting at 7 p.m. The agenda includes a discussion of a McKenzie Avenue rezoning proposal. You can join online or by phone: (571) 429-5982, Phone Conference ID: 730 922 969#.

News in Brief

  • Children ages 5-11 are now eligible for the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. Learn more–and find out how to schedule an appointment for your child–here.

  • Ninety-seven percent of FCPS staff are vaccinated, with the remaining 3% now subject to weekly testing, WTOP News reports.

  • Two people were injured Saturday night in a two-vehicle car crash in Fairfax Station, at the intersection of Fairfax County Parkway and Freds Oak Road, police said on Twitter. One man remains hospitalized with injuries considered life threatening.

  • Andrew Paulucci, 21, of Centreville, was killed Friday in a motorcycle crash in Fairfax Station. Detectives believe speed may have been a factor for the motorcycle, according to the Fairfax County Police Department.

Real Estate

Sponsored Content

Jennifer Mack column: Why I don’t foresee a housing market crash in 2022

At least once a week I get asked if the housing market will crash in 2022. The short answer: No, I don’t think so, though there will of course continue to be seasonable price fluctuations.

Here are three reasons why I don’t foresee a crash:

Inventory remains low. Unlike during the 2008 housing bubble, inventory has become extremely scarce. According to a new analysis from the mortgage-finance company Freddie Mac, the U.S. housing industry is nearly 4 million single-family homes short of what is needed to meet demand. Previously, in 2018, Freddie Mac had estimated that the housing market was 2.5 million units short. The new estimate is as of the end of 2020, and it emphasizes the severity of the housing supply crunch. While low inventory is a problem, it also creates an opportunity for home equity to rise. The bottom line: Next year will likely continue to be a strong seller’s market.

We’re seeing more lenient forbearance terms than expected, with the new payment deferral options announced in June 2020. Borrowers who can return to making their normal monthly mortgage payments may choose to defer their missed payments until they sell or refinance their home, or until mortgage maturity. Here’s an explanation from Mark Calabria, director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency: 

For homeowners in forbearance due to COVID-19, payment deferral allows them to make up missed forbearance payments when they sell their home or refinance… This new forbearance repayment solution responsibly simplifies options for homeowners while providing an additional tool for mortgage servicers. Borrowers who can pay their mortgage should, because missed payments remain an obligation that will ultimately have to be repaid.

The economy continues to grow. The Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes an occupational outlook each year that goes into great detail about each industry and occupation. Overall, BLS expects total employment to increase by 6 million jobs between 2019 and 2029. Manufacturing and retail industries will continue to shed jobs, while e-commerce will continue to grow. Diane Swonk, Chief Economist at Grant Thornton, said she expects 2021’s growth rate to be 6.6%, the strongest year since 1984. 

Jennifer Mack has more than 16 years of experience in the real estate industry, with her team servicing Virginia, Maryland, and D.C. Contact her at or by calling 703-672-0038.

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