The catering division of Stack ‘Em High restaurant in Kitty Hawk has been newly christened Kiki’s Kitchen. The name change pays homage to the spirited matriarch, chef and restaurant diva Kiki Kiousis, who, with her husband, Perry, began Stack ‘Em High in Kill Devil Hills in 1968 and still frequents her two restaurant kitchens to oversee, enhance and advise.
The name change came to be “because everyone thought we just catered breakfast,” says Kristine Kiousis, Kiki’s daughter-in-law. “And we do still do great breakfasts. We just also do so much more. We cater gorgeous events any time of day and time of the year.”
I was chatting with Kristine at lunchtime because I, too, was one of those people. During my three decades on the Outer Banks, I had only visited Stack ‘Em High restaurants for breakfast; not once had I been for lunch or even thought about them as caterers. Silly me.
Kristine and her Greek-American husband, Steve, run the Kitty Hawk location. They are there pretty much all the time and do pretty much everything. They also have a solid year-round staff that doubles in the summertime. The Stack ‘Em High location in Kill Devil Hills is run by Steve’s brother, Nick, and his wife, Dawn. They operate pretty much the same way.
Both locations of Stack ‘Em High offer generous breakfasts and lunches with Greek-inspired dishes on the menus. Both also offer their unique, cafeteria-type service with made-to-order meals. Expect to stand in line to order, select drinks and pick sides, then pay and wait to be directed to a table. You will be given a number, and your food will always find you.
One of my favorite reasons to stand in line for breakfast or brunch is to order the Gyro Omelette. Three eggs are the base for the omelette, which is stuffed with peppers, onions, tomatoes, cheese and gyro meat and then topped with a generous dollop of homemade tzatziki sauce. Yes, this is a dish for which I get cravings. I would probably crave a lot of other things they serve, too, if I didn’t keep ordering what I crave.
Visiting at lunchtime, I was determined not to order my craving. My Pavlovian tendencies are apparently high, though, because I deviated only as far as the real gyro. Listed on the menu as a Gyro Pita Wrap, the sandwich was filled with strips of gyro meat, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, cucumbers and tzatziki sauce wrapped in a grilled pita.
The pita wrap is normally served with chips, but Steve suggested we get the hand-cut fries. Listen to Steve. They were spot on. Spot on in a way that can only happen when the grease is clean and hot. The fries were creamy, steamy and soft on the inside and crispy, salty and crunchy on the outside. They were perfection.
There were four of us for lunch, so we were able to try four different dishes. Sweetie ordered the Monte Cristo — sliced country ham and a blend of four cheeses grilled between two pieces of their signature French toast. The toast was first slathered with strawberry preserves and then griddle cooked. Salty, sweet, creamy and crunchy were in every cheese-gooey bite. The jam grilled on to the bread was a clever way to incorporate the sweet; I really liked that.
Pal Ann ordered the Authentic Greek Salad and wondered beforehand if she should choose the large or small. She went with the large and happily ended up with a to-go box. Romaine lettuce, tomato, onions, cucumbers, banana peppers, Kalamata olives, Greek seasonings and crumbled feta cheese were tossed with olive oil and red wine vinegar and served with grilled pita bread.
We all agreed how much we appreciated that each of our breads had been warm, and Ann shared that the pitas for the salad were warm, slightly crunchy and had bits of grill flavors pressed into their flatness. Each bite tasted a wee bit different, depending on what was grilled before it and made a tasty accompaniment.
Pal Jack tried the Stack ‘Em Greek Burger, listed on the menu as a 6 oz. burger served with lettuce, tomato, onion, cucumber, tzatziki sauce, feta and Greek seasonings. Jack does not hold back on his reviews and declared his to be a really good burger. There is a lot of meaning in his few words. The fries were also approved.
Specials are offered daily and range from Moussaka (a Greek layered eggplant dish), Manestra (Greek Chicken and Orzo) and Pastitsio (a Greek pasta dish with ground beef) to a Vietnamese-inspired chicken Banh Mi made with grilled, sliced ham instead of pork pâté and topped with quick pickled onions and fresh cilantro to an all-American cheeseburger.
Oh, in addition to all the good food they put out, the good folks at Stack ‘Em High also put out a lot of community love. They sponsor community events in-house all year long. Be sure to check their Facebook page for upcoming pancake dinner benefits; all you need to do is eat out and everyone wins.