DENVER – From the outside, the restaurant looks like a typical fish camp-style eatery. The kind of place that serves the majority of their seafood deep-fried and the odor clings to your hair and clothes long after you’ve left.
However, the interior of the Captain’s Cap is nicely casual with comfortable chairs and absolutely no smell whatsoever.
Manager George Stathopoulos has slowly been changing the menu over to healthier, broiled fare full of Mediterranean flavor.
“We’re moving from that typical fish camp-style to a broader style of a menu,” Stathopoulos said. “The customers have really been enjoying the changes.”
George’s father, Spero Stathopoulos, came over from Athens, Greece, at age 17 in 1971 with his parents due to a military coup in the government.
He and family members opened the first Captain’s Cap in Gastonia in 1981 at the foothills of Crowder Mountain. Then in 1992, a second location opened in Belmont. The third and final restaurant opened in Denver in 2001.
“I have been very lucky because my sons want to be involved in the business,” Spero Stathopoulos said. His other son, Andreas, is a Johnson and Wales University graduate and runs the kitchen.
The Captain’s Cap in Denver is open for dinner five days a week, Tuesday through Saturday. It opens at 3:30 p.m. and does a bustling early dinner business often for seniors who have a specific menu. This menu has less expensive options that come with hushpuppies, a side and a trip to the salad bar.
“We respect the seniors, you know,” Spero Stathopoulos said with a shrug. “We give them a good deal with good food and they keep coming back.”
The amount of made-in-house items is surprising; they do not skimp on ingredients or freshness here. They make their own breading, cocktail sauce, dressings, potato salad, clam chowder and spaghetti sauce, which is made from a 40-year-old recipe. The hushpuppies are made in-house and fresh every day. The steaks are hand-cut, the chicken is cut in-house and the beef tips are marinated in the kitchen. Plus the seafood is very fresh.
“I’ve known these vendors for years,” said Spero Stathopoulos. “We get the very best fish here.”
The salmon is broiled in olive oil and light spice. It tastes simple yet flavorful as the freshness is allowed to come through. The whole fried Tilapia is a wonder; it fills the entire plate with head and tail still on. The fish is flakey and delicate with just the right amount of crunch.
And the restaurant is truly striving to create healthier options on the menu.
“The market is really demanding it,” George Stathopoulos said. “So we’ve made it taste really good, and the customers are enjoying it.”
The Captain’s Cap seats 200 people and is decked out in a nautical motif. It is the perfect place for a large family party or other occasion. The vibe is casual but impeccable service is the norm. Customers pay at the counter and can then check out the large, vintage candy selection.
The restaurant also does a big carry-out business. Customers are free to call in their order and then drive through the pick-up window or an employee will bring it right to their car.
“Many of our customers just call when they are getting off work and we bring it right out to them,” Spero Stathopoulos said.
The restaurant is a true family place, starting with the family who runs the Denver location.
“It was always my hope that my sons would take over one day,” Spero Stathopoulos said. “And now I’m phasing out, and they are starting to run it on their own.”
Want to go? Captain’s Cap, 1218 N. N.C. 16, Denver, 704-483-2121.