March 25, 2022 By Michael Dorgan
A former rapper whose family has a long history in the Astoria restaurant scene is about to open a burger joint on the corner of Broadway and 33rd Street.
John Arvanitis, 28, whose father founded Omonia Café in 1977 and his family operates Amylos Taverna on Broadway, will open SLDR Burger Bar on May 1. The restaurant will offer a range of miniature burgers known as sliders, as well as beer, fries and other fast-food items.
The burger bar is Arvanitis’ first business venture and comes after a successful few years in the music industry where he went by the stage name Akillezz. Some of Arvanitis’ top songs have garnered millions of views on YouTube.
Arvanitis, however, opted to get into the family restaurant business and signed a lease on 32-21 Broadway in 2020 to launch his burger bar project. The 1,600 square foot space is across the street from Omonia Café and was previously occupied by Romano’s Famous Pizza.
SLDR’s focus will be on sliders, speed of service and variety.
The burger joint’s signature meal will feature 12 different sliders along the edges of a pizza-style box, with fries in the center and a beer on the side, Arvanitis said.
Customers will be able to pour their own beers at a self-service station consisting of 12 taps — which will each dispense a different beer. Above each tap are touchscreen tablets where customers will be able to select the beer of their choice.
SLDR will also be serving sodas, sweet potatoes fries and soft-serve ice cream, Arvanitis said.
Arvanitis said SLDR’s business concept is drawn from today’s high-speed information world which involves a myriad number of communication platforms.
“Everything is so immediate now with the visual bombardment from social media and text messaging, so the concept was really to open a dining equivalent of these new social trends,” Arvanitis said.
“My sociological curiosity prompted me to open up a business that corresponds to the way that we receive information today.”
For instance, the sliders represent small bite-sized bits of information while the company’s name — SLDR — is short for slider and reflects the quick service anticipated at the restaurant, Arvanitis said.
The company logo, which is emblazoned across the moss green exterior of the burger bar, also reflects speed since it is italicized. It also lights up at night.
The interior is also sleek looking and is a modern twist on the 1950s and 1960s fast-food diners, he said.
“Reaching back is the best way to see the future,” Arvanitis said.
Arvanitis has installed around 30 yellow stools lined up inside the premises to give a bar effect. The walls have gray-colored tiles while the bar counter is dark-Hawaiin blue and the ceiling has one long light surrounded in orange, red and yellow colors.
Arvanitis said one of the reasons he chose to move into the building was for sentimental purposes since it is located directly across from Omonia Café. He remembers gazing over at it as a child while helping out at the café, he said.
Additionally, Arvanitis said the burger bar is located on a bustling corner and made business sense.
“The great secret is that’s where the traffic goes,” Arvanitis said. “That’s how you go down toward the RFK bridge and that’s where the walking traffic is.”
“So for all those reasons, I have had my heart set on that corner, it’s perfect.”
Despite his business concept being focused on speed, he has undergone a drawn-out process in opening.
Arvanitis, who signed a lease in February 2020, has been plagued by delays stemming in large part from his landlord’s difficulty in obtaining a Certificate of Occupancy (CO) for the space. His landlord, he said, has been working on it for two years.
The delay, in turn, made it difficult for him to obtain a liquor license.
During the pandemic, the State Liquor Authority required business owners to first obtain a CO for their premises before they could be issued with a liquor license, Arvanitis said.
The state reversed the rule earlier this year, and he now has his liquor license. Meanwhile, his landlord is finalizing the CO.
Arvanitis said he did not want to open SLDR without being able to serve beer since it is a major component of his business.
“It’s such a tight concept that I felt I would have been doing a disservice to myself and the community by opening without beer,” Arvanitis said. “It’s not the model I wanted to present to the world.”
Opening hours will be from noon to 1 a.m. Mondays through Sundays.