For 35 years, South Floridians have been flocking to The Original Lots of Lox Deli, located in the corner of the shopping plaza at US-1 and SW 152nd Street. For the last six-and-a-half years Jimmy Poulos and his cousins Nick and Steve Poulos have owned the restaurant. “We each own a third and one of us is always here for every hour we are open,” remarks Jimmy Poulos. “We love and live in this community.”
One might hear the name Poulos, pick up on the fact that they are Greek and wonder why they are running a deli-style restaurant. “We’ve been in the restaurant business forever. We ran eight restaurants in downtown office buildings for 30 years, then we kind of retired to this place. It was a no-brainer to simply switch styles from American to deli and still provide the quality and value that we know we can do.”
Haitian-born Gerard Francois serves as the head chef and has been with Lots of Lox for 25 years. “I started as a busboy and never left.” When asked how a Haitian could cook such tremendous Jewish dishes he replied, “I learned from the second owner. He was great. And after this many years here, you almost become half-Jewish (he laughs).” Francois went on to boast, “I make the absolute best matzo ball soup and the reason Lots of Lox is so good is because I’ve helped develop special recipes that will never leave this restaurant.” Francois effortlessly glides throughout the kitchen turning out meals six days a week. He jokes, “I’m so fast that it only takes me a blink and I’m done. This isn’t work, it’s magic.”
Laurie King precedes even Francois, having worked at Lots of Lox for the past 29 years. “This is my first job ever. I walked in one day in the 1980s really needing to work and applied for the cashier’s job. Within an hour they gave me eight tables to wait on for lunch. I almost cried. But looking back, it has been the best experience of my life.” As the matriarch of the restaurant, I asked her what makes Lots of Lox so successful. “We have good bones. The first owner, Morty, taught us how to do it right. We are a family that loves what we do and the people who come in to eat with us. It’s all about creating comfort and delivering the best food possible.”
There’s little doubt about the love and loyalty the customers show Lots of Lox. Miami-Dade Police Department’s Peter Zaharakos has been eating here regularly for more than 10 years. “I come here for the food and the attentive and caring people. It’s extremely rare to find this level of service these days and I respect the dedication.” Lots of Lox serves as a fabulous meeting place and everyone from family to business people to politicians know it.
To underscore the close relationships that form in a place like this, King recalled two stories. “Back when my mom was very sick, one of my regular customers noticed I wasn’t wearing my regular smile. After I explained that my mother was in the hospital, this customer went to the hospital every night, visited her and reported back to me the next day to make sure I knew what was going on even when I couldn’t be there. I’ll never forget that!”
King is studying to become a registered nurse. When a doctor and his wife (her regular customers) found out about her plan to study, they purchased all the study guides she needed for college and invited King to their home every Monday for study until she had passed all the exams at honors level. “That is so special for me. They are following and participating in my journey and nothing could be more pleasing!” King continued, “I love what I do because of the customers. It’s the camaraderie and the words of thanks. The tips are one thing, but the love and caring are really uplifting. I was meant to be here.”
On a typical weekend day, 600 people flow through Lots of Lox to get their fill of homemade food prepared on premises daily. Poulos boasts, “We make everything from scratch, whether it be matzo balls or anything else.” King says “Bagels, nova and cream cheese, the traditional Jewish breakfast, is the #1 best seller.” Poulos adds, “It’s whatever our customers want, we’re there for them. It’s all about superior service.”
Come for the food, stay for the love. Each of the 30 employees looks forward to seeing you. They are open every day at 7am and close at 9pm. On weekends they close at 4pm. They are located at 14995 S. Dixie Hwy. You can reach them at www.originallotsoflox.com and 305-252-2010.