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Oral Histories

The SFA oral history program documents life stories from the American South. Collecting these stories, we honor the people whose labor defines the region.

ORAL HISTORY

George Sarris


Niki's Downtown

Greek-born George Sarris arrived in Birmingham on March 31, 1969, with his mother and a sister. The next day they were washing dishes for uncles who owned meat-and-three restaurants. But the family saved enough to quickly send for Sarris’ father and siblings in Tsitalia, Greece. Most went on to own Birmingham restaurants.

In 1983 Sarris took over an uncle’s seafood market and built it into today’s 400-seat Fish Market restaurant. Among Birmingham’s most beloved businessmen, Sarris also owns importing and catering businesses. His adult children, Dorothy and Dino, work with him.

The restaurant offers a diverse array of seafood, far beyond what swims in the nearby Gulf of Mexico. Look for fried and grilled fin- and shell-fish, regional dishes and baked seafood. “It’s Southern, but I ‘Greek it up,’” Sarris says about his recipes and the Greek olive oil, herbs and cooking techniques he uses.

Sarris is kin by blood or marriage to many of the city’s most prominent restaurant families. He estimates some 80 percent of Greek families in Birmingham hail from a half-dozen tiny villages 100 miles east of Sparta, including Tsitalia. The first relative from Sarris’ mountain village came in the 1880s.

Date of interview:
2004-03-08 00:00

Interviewer:
Amy Evans | Eric Velasco

Photographer:
Andrew Thomas Lee

Download Transcript Download Transcript 2

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