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Village Grille owner shares his secret to popular chicken souvlaki

Looking for authentic Greek food like perfectly seasoned chicken that melts in your mouth? Marwan Yacoub is the guy to see. He has owned The Village Grille in Williamsville for 23 years and lives by the motto, “We are fresh food, not fast food.” But plenty of busy people turn to Yacoub for weekday lunches and dinners by calling ahead for takeout orders.

While chicken souvlaki is the most popular item, Yacoub encourages customers to explore the entire longstanding menu.

Yacoub took a break from the busy kitchen to talk about his secret to chicken souvlaki that keeps loyal customers coming back.

Question: Your chicken souvlaki is very popular. What’s your secret?

Yacoub: Chicken is marinated with spices to give it tenderness. You have to marinate it for a few days to soak in and get the flavor. The dressing for sure, the rice pudding, the marinade for the meat - all that stuff we do ourselves from scratch.

Q: What would you say is second in popularity?

A: Souvlaki is our No. 1 seller, but everything else on the menu sells, too, so that’s why I have a hard time eliminating certain items. But souvlaki is definitely No. 1 and stir fry is No. 2. We sell a lot of stir fry. It’s our own combination of seasoned rice with onion, mushrooms, broccoli and tomatoes and our own blend of stir fry sauce. I like the stir fry and the salads.

Take-out orders are popular for lunch and dinner. (Elizabeth Carey/Special to The News.)

Q: How did you come up with the recipes?

A: Everything has been on the menu ever since we started. I just came up with the recipes and practiced and what I didn’t like I would change around to my liking because honestly if there is something I can’t eat myself, I don’t want to serve it. That’s why I don’t buy cheap product. I have a lot of friends and family come in so I won’t serve it if I know it’s not good.

Q: How many customers are regulars?

A: We have a very loyal customer base. They come in three or four times a week. We’ve been established so we are well known. It’s nice. If people like it, they come back.

Gary Owens and Kevin Gentry enjoy lunch at The Village Grille. (Elizabeth Carey/Special to The News.)

Q: How have you established yourself as a caterer?

A: We do a lot of office catering for sure. We do offer a different variety that people don't know of because they aren’t opening their minds to something else. Basically when they call The Village Grille, they are calling for the Greek specialties. Chicken souvlaki is the No. 1 seller and that’s what they want most of the time.

I try to tell them, “Listen, you’ll get sick and tired of it.” So I try to do something different and surprise them. I used to cater all the way to Rochester, but can’t deliver that far anymore because of the help situation. You don’t get good, quality employees these days.

Q: Is that your biggest challenge?

A: It’s been really hard to find dependable employees the past few years. People ask me, “Why don’t you increase the business?” I know I can, but I don’t want to because then I know I’ll have to do all the work myself. I don’t want to mess up my business. I used to open on the weekend, but it was too hard to find anyone to work.

Foot traffic will pick up for Village of Williamsville restaurants when the weather breaks. (Elizabeth Carey/Special to The News.)

Q: How does the weather impact your business?

A: It’s busier when it’s warmer. If it’s a nice evening and people are out and about in the village they stop in to eat. A lot of people in the village live nearby and they walk up and down Main Street and then you have the Thursday night events and the bands so that draws people too.

INFO: The Village Grille, 5650 Main St., Williamsville; 626-9944. Hours: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday.


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