Restaurateur Alex Kouvatsos hounds his suppliers.
He sits down with two of his major food vendors twice a week and receives calls five times a week from several others. They know what he wants: High-quality products at good prices. After a quarter-century in the business, he knows how to bargain.
"You have to buy right," his wife, Tana, said. "If you don't buy right, you've already missed the boat."
In turn, the Kouvatsoses offer patrons at Alexander's Family Restaurant in West Manchester Township fresh meals at more than reasonable prices.
Alexander's prices are some of the lowest I've seen in York County. Although many restaurant owners might seek to get quality goods at lower prices, I can't say that I often see it reflected on menus. Alexander's offers a jumbo burger for $2.95, omelets for $5.55, and lists of specials for less than $10 every day.
I sometimes drive by Alexander's on my way to work, and the parking lot is often full. Tana said there's a line out the door on Saturday mornings.
So I decided to check it out. A few customers sat at a counter and tables midafternoon recently on a rainy Friday. I sat at a table in the dining room. Crimson paper place mats rest on each table. Oil paintings of women and children from the Victorian era and gold lighting fixtures hang on the walls. Tana said she's been working on the décor since the restaurant first opened. She loves rich, jewel-colored tones of dark teal, pearl and mauve.
Although the majority of the menu costs less than $10, I turned to a list of specials. I was surprised to see several fish meals - my favorite - listed for $7 or $8. I chose the broiled salmon, roasted red potatoes, and mixed green and wax beans and carrots.
My waiter served the food in less than 10 minutes. An orange slice and parsley garnished the seasoned and slightly crispy fish on a tin oval plate. The kitchen staff roasted the potatoes in fresh basil, garlic, butter, salt and a touch of wine.
The veggies were fresh and flavorful - a must in my book. How many times have you eaten soggy broccoli or bland potatoes at a restaurant? When sides taste great, you know the kitchen is paying attention to all components of a good meal.
Tana said she and Alex come from families who work in the restaurant industry. The couple opened Alexander's 25 years ago. Since, Tana has run the front of the house, and Alex controls the back end of business: Ordering, creating specials and cooking. He works double shifts seven days a week.
Tana said most of their customers are regulars. If someone isn't, she makes it a point for them to come back.
"Sometimes, people don't consider their customers," she said. "In this industry, we should be a little more concerned for our customer."
Tana said Alexander's success also comes from a dedicated staff. Many employees have worked there 10 to 20 years.
She said manager Paula Thomas cares as much about the restaurant as if it were her own. Cashier Marvette Stoll's register is never a penny off.
"If I worked it, it wouldn't be as good," Tana said.
She calls the business, her employees and customers a blessing.
"Alexander's would be nothing without all these people," Tana said.
Alexander's Family Restaurant
LOCATION: 840 Carlisle Road in West Manchester Township
LEIGH'S PICK: Salmon with roasted red potatoes and green beans and coffee ($8.58)
HOURS: 5:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Saturday; 6:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday
PRICE RANGE: $1.15 to $18.95
ACCEPTS: Cash, Visa and Mastercard
KIDS' MENU: Yes
DETAILS: Call 846-1041