Savas Bahtsevanos has owned restaurants since he was 24 years old. After an eight-year break, he decided he had one more restaurant left in him. He purchased Joe Kelly’s on Elm Street in Manchester and changed it to Tedy J’s M City Grille, and he brought on board his two sons, Ted (T.J.) and Alex, to make it a family operation.
“The price was right, and the restaurant was in the heart of downtown,” Bahtsevanos said. “It was an opportunity I couldn’t let it get away.”
Bahtsevanos’s beginning in the restaurant world is a common tale, starting as a dishwasher when he was 14 years old at the old Merrimack restaurant. His first place was Kirk’s Restaurant on Brown Ave. from the mid-1980s to the 1990s. He then owned Bahtsevanos Atlantic Steakhouse until 2002. After that he worked at various jobs while he focused on spending time with his family.
The restaurant urge hit Bahtsevanos again not long after Ted graduated from the University of New Hampshire’s Whittemore School of Business. It was a struggle for Ted to find work in the recession-driven economy, so he joined in on the new endeavor. And younger brother Alex is in his second year at UNH as a restaurant management major, so having him come on board part time completed the picture.
“Trying to achieve a sense of balance in any relationship, be it business or personal, is what you strive for. My experience with my sons’ drive and energy are the perfect balance for making this restaurant work,” Bahtsevanos said.
The name Tedy J’s comes from the Greek tradition of naming the first born after the grandfather. In this case, it’s not only Bahtevanos’s father but also his son who carry the name.
Ted gravitates toward the front of the house, where he greets guests, makes sure everyone is happy, and manages the wait staff. Alex is more attuned to the kitchen, where he likes to develop his skills by watching his dad prepare some of the signature dishes. All three of the Bahtevanos men cook in the kitchen at one time or another.
With this restaurant, the father and sons want to offer an alternative to the upscale restaurants in the downtown area. They describe it as casual American — a long bar with plenty of seats, and a menu of casual and home-style favorites.
Much of the menu is a hold-over from the Joe Kelly’s selections — the recipes came with the purchase of the restaurant. That includes the hand-tossed pizzas and the popular steak and cheese sub. Newer menu additions that are a hit with customers are the Greek souvlaki pocket sandwich, made with broiled chunks of marinated meat topped with lettuce, tomato and Greek dressing. Also popular are the broiled lamb tips and sirloin steak tips dinners, as well as the baked haddock casserole. All the dinners are served with a choice of French fries or rice pilaf.
The Bahtevanos want Tedy J’s to be a place where families will stop in for lunch or dinner, or people come in after work for a drink, or later in the evening to meet with friends. Plans are in the works to create special theme nights, such as karaoke night.
Bahtevanos is happy to be back in the Manchester restaurant scene. “It’s gratifying when you’re in constant contact with the customers and you get the satisfaction of serving a good meal. Pleasing the customers with delicious food at a great price,” he said. To which Ted added, “I live for compliments. If customers leave here with a smile on their face and a full belly, I’m happy.”