Anastasia Koutsioukis and Ahmet Erkaya

There is the power of money, the power of giving, the power of fame. And then there is a quieter kind of power that involves setting up a place where intellectuals, artists, world travelers, the foreign-born, ex-New Yorkers, and Miami Beach residents tired of the South Beach party scene can find one another. Mandolin Aegean Bistro in the Design District has become just that place. Owners Anastasia Koutsioukis and Ahmet Erkaya met in New York, where Anastasia, who loved design, was working in marketing/brand education for LVMH cosmetics, and where Ahmet discovered that he was tired of finance, but wanted instead to be a chef. He began by managing a restaurant. But still there was the dream of doing something together.

They knew they wanted to share the food, style, and music of their mutual cultures: Greek and Turkish. They traveled. They wrote a menu. They considered California and the South of France. “All we needed was a setting—something similar to a Greek island setting,” she says. Seeing the Design District in 2009 was love at first sight.

They found a house built in 1939 on NE Second Avenue that they felt could be transformed into both a restaurant and a cultural statement. “Greeks and Turks have been rivals throughout history,” she says. “This is the only restaurant I know of that proudly announces itself as Greek and Turkish.”

Mandolin, painted a cheerful blue and white reminiscent of a Mediterranean cottage, opened in the winter of 2009. Ahmet and Anastasia gathered dining room décor on their frequent drives (“We love road trips,” he says), and especially at the markets in Mount Dora, Florida. They consider exploring historic sites and local Miami haunts their favorite way to spend a Sunday.

In just two years, they have built the restaurant into a success, drawing customers far and wide for relaxed, lingering lunches. Mandolin has proved such a hit that the pair has plans to open a new Floridian fish shack just blocks away. They’ve also recently purchased a house in the neighborhood, and consider their customers to be friends and often neighbors. Best of all, Anastasia says, they continue to be inspired by each other. “We don’t consider ourselves a power couple,” Ahmet says. “We’d be better in a story called Happy Couples.”

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