HANCOCK COUNTY – As a young boy growing up in Cyprus – an island country in the eastern Mediterranean Sea – Constantinos Stylianou probably never guessed he’d one day own three restaurants in small town Indiana, USA.
Yet that’s where the 57-year-old self-made restaurateur finds himself, decades after his mother and sister taught him to cook the traditional Greek dishes he grew up with, less than 600 miles from Greece.
Since first opening Lincoln Square Pancake House 11 years ago with a cousin in downtown Greenfield, Stylianou has garnered a reputation for being a great cook, a kind boss and an all-around good guy.
Two of his staff members have been with him since the beginning, and a wide number of customers and employees consider him a friend.
“He is a great boss who really cares about his community and his employees. He treats us all like his family,” said Dana Brown, who has been a server at the Greenfield pancake house since the day Stilyanou first opened for business.
Greenfield Mayor Chuck Fewell said Stylianou has been a great community partner over the years.
“Costas has always been a warm, receptive person,” he said. “When I came in as mayor (in 2013) he was one of the first local business owners I met, and one of the first to come and see me and to tell me he was there for the city, and that he would help in any manner he can.”
Fewell said the restaurant owner has followed through on that promise by always supporting city-driven community events and philanthropic fundraisers for various causes. He’s also been know to shut down his parking lot to host pet adoption events.
“If someone needs something, he’ll be there to help them. He’s always done that, and I think he always will,” said the mayor, who frequents the downtown pancake house.
Stylianou’s business partner, George Katris, started the Lincoln Square Pancake House chain in 1989.
Since Stylianou came on board, the cousins have expanded their offerings and now own a dozen restaurants, including three in Hancock County – Lincoln Square Pancake House and Costa’s Grill in Greenfield and another Lincoln Square in Fortville.
While he lives a short drive away in Fishers, Stylianou said he couldn’t imagine a better place to serve his guests than in Hancock County.
“I love the community. It’s a great community,” he said. “You might say you can find people like this in any small town, but that’s not true. I tell people this community really cares for each other without asking for anything in return.”
Stylianou considers Hancock County to be his “home away from home,” and said he and his wife do the majority of their shopping and dining – even dog grooming – within the county limits.
“I might go to sleep in another city, but I can tell you I work here from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily, and most of the weeks are seven days a week,” he said.
Despite the long hours, Stylianou can’t imagine doing anything else.
After growing up in Cypress, which shares close cultural ties with Greece, Stylianou moved to Chicago in 1987 to study hospitality at the University of Illinois.
It was around the same time that he realized he was destined to be his own boss.
“I realized I didn’t want to work for people anymore,” he recalled. “I don’t want to call it perfectionism, but I would see little things (not being done right) and it would bother me, so when I was 24 I decided to quit my job and start my own business. Since the age of 25 I’ve worked for myself,” he said.
The restaurateur opened his first restaurant, a Greek eatery called Aphrodite, in Chicago’s Greektown in 2003. He also owned a restaurant called Pomegranate Cafe in Naperville, Illinois.
While running his own business has always demanded long hours, Stylianou said it’s been a good way to provide for his wife, Katerina, and two grown sons — Jordan, 24, and Giorgos, 22.
He and his wife celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary last month, and still make time to return to his family in Cyprus each spring.
Stylianou said it was his customers’ frequent request for Greek-inspired dishes that prompted him to open Costa’s Grill in Greenfield in March 2020, just one week before COVID-19 hit the U.S.
“People would ask me to make them this, make them that, but I was scared a little bit because a lot of people don’t know anything about international cuisine,” he said. As it turned out, his Greek-inspired grill has been a big hit, so much so that loyal customers from his other restaurants flooded the parking lot for take-out orders to sustain him through the spring and summer of 2020 when restaurants like his were limited to carry-out orders due to COVID.
Stylianou said his moussaka – a layered dish of eggplant, zucchini, potatoes, ground beef and cheese – is among his favorite and one of the most requested items.
While he serves traditional favorites like gyros, saganaki and falafel at his Greek-inspired grill, he also serves a variety of more American fare like sandwiches, salads and broasted chicken, along with lasagna and spaghetti and meatballs.
“Most of my daily specials are American cuisine,” he said.
While his two local Lincoln Square restaurants have sustained a strong following, Stylianou has been grateful to see a similar following of loyal customers develop at Costa’s Grill. “I’m happy I brought this new addition to Greenfield,” he said one sunny afternoon, as the sunlight streamed into the cozy restaurant.
“A lot of people seem to appreciate it, so we’re busy. We’re really doing very good.”