Socrates Restaurant on St. Albert Trail is more than a casual eatery.
It’s a local landmark that has served multiple generations of families, and this month patrons gave the restaurant a golden ticket as best server/place of business in The Gazette's Readers' Choice Awards.
“People know me as the face of Socrates, but it’s really my staff that shines,” said owner Lynn Kolpak, who employs 16 people at the 1,700-square-foot diner. Most Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays the restaurant feeds 300 to 500 people.
“We got fully supported during COVID. We felt the love for sure," said Kolpak. "We wouldn’t be here without all the support from people in St. Albert and Edmonton.”
Asked why she believes the establishment enjoys so many repeat customers, Kolpak said, “We’re consistent. We’re a retro throwback. People remember us. Some people come in and say, ‘Hey, I remember coming here when I was a kid.’ It’s nostalgia.”
Jim Alexandropoulos first opened the Greek-style eatery more than 35 years ago. Kolpak was hired 30 years ago as a server. When Alexandropoulos retired to Greece, Kolpak bought him out.
“It was home. It had a nice homey atmosphere and I felt I couldn’t let it pass on to someone else,” she said.
While the loaded omelette and grilled chicken souvlaki are still a standby from Alexandropoulos’s era, people’s dining habits changed in 2000 to more Canadian-styled bennies and meals in a bowl.
But it was the pandemic that brought about a seismic shift in the way Socrates serves food.
“People pick up food more. We cook quite a few family meals, and they eat them at home, or they drop them off to their parents. We’ve also started doing more catering. That’s the direction we’re heading. We’re branching out to catering and we’re finding our niche with smaller events.”
Prior to COVID, the diner was open 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Currently, the hours shifted to 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Once the venue closes in the afternoon, staff usually prep for evening catering events ranging from backyard showers and small weddings to barbecues, corporate events, and funerals.
Kolpak is candid about the challenges she faces – first the pandemic and now the spike in food and fuel prices.
“You want to keep your prices reasonable, but you also want to make a buck.”
Despite some of the seemingly impossible challenges, the happy, good-natured mother and grandmother isn’t quitting.
“I like people I meet here. I’ve always said that, and that’s the best thing that hasn’t changed over the years. We’ve been invited to weddings and funerals as guests. We love to party too. We are such a large part of the community.”
Several times during the interview, Kolpak spoke about team efforts that kept the restaurant operational.
“I would really like to thank everyone who is part of Socrates. And if you haven’t been here before, I hope you come and enjoy our hospitality. I extend my thanks to everyone who supported us.”