Plus Cafe represents a happy accident for owner Klevis Qyrasi, who said he was driving along Atlantic Avenue with no firm plans to open a restaurant in Marblehead when he saw the property where the cafe now sits was up for sale.
Now, more than two years since it opened its doors, Plus Cafe is one of the busiest locales in town and Qyrasi now oversees a trio of restaurants in town, with Elia Taverna opening not long after Plus Cafe, and the latest addition, A&D Clam Box, opening last month.
Qyrasi, who is Greek, said he has worked in restaurants since he first moved to the U.S., and opened his first business in 2003 in Medford. He later sold that business, and in addition to his ever-growing Marblehead empire, owns Peabody Cafe in Peabody and Mister Q. Cafe in Charlestown.
He said he started out washing dishes, before moving his way up.
“When I first came in, I was pretty much just dishes. I didn’t know much back then when it came to [restaurants.] Plus my English was not as good … back then it was horrible,” he said with a smile.
It was there that he learned the tricks of the trade, so to speak, getting tips on recipes from uncles and other family members.
“I learned from them and they gave me some good recipes,” he said.
Qyrasi said each of his three restaurants share a common goal of providing simple food and simple recipes to customers, with the emphasis on simplicity coming because, he said, “simple tastes much better.”
That simplicity is demonstrated well in the cafe’s draft latte, which Qyrasi insisted this reporter sample (the latte didn’t last long). The drink, comprised of espresso and oat milk, is one of the most popular in the cafe, and is the top seller during the summer season, he said.
“It’s rich in flavor and you can tell there’s not that strong of a coffee taste but you can also taste the coffee and the oat milk makes it rich in flavor,” he said.
Qyrasi said his favorite dish is Pasticcio, which he dubbed “Greek lasagna.” He added that the octopus at Elia Taverna is a “must try” as is the flaming cheese, which is lit ablaze tableside. At A&D Clam Box, he recommends the baked fish, explaining that fish is brought in from Ipswich every other day to ensure it stays fresh.
Quality ingredients are key to the initial success of the three restaurants, he said.
“Our main focus is quality, quality is number one for us. If the quality and the standard of quality is there, people will come back no matter what,” Qyrasi said. “If it’s fresh, it’s fresh, you can tell. If it’s not then you have to do extra stuff to cover it up but our food is fresh. There’s nothing to cover. If it’s fresh, it’s simple.”
As the owner of three restaurants, Qyrasi inevitably does quite a bit of cooking. He said he tries to avoid cooking at home as a result.
Across each restaurant, Qyrasi tries to maintain a warm, welcoming atmosphere. He said the town has completely embraced him and he’s received nothing but positive feedback on the trio of restaurants.
“We’re just a neighborhood store,” he said of Plus Cafe, adding that “so far everybody likes” Elia Taverna and A&D Clam Box.
Qyrasi said he and business partner Thanas Bido are trying to “introduce a little bit of Europe in Marblehead.”