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Coming full circle
This story begins in 1974 when a Greek immigrant named Spiro Aliagas opened a small pizza shop called Olympia Pizza on Queen Anne Hill. A then 14-year-old boy of Norwegian heritage, Lief Moi, got his first job with Aliagas, washing dishes and busing tables. Moi’s uncle had helped Aliagas start the business.
Moi loved the restaurant business and stuck with his Greek boss while he opened many more restaurants — in Wallingford, Capitol Hill, West Seattle and more.
Ultimately this led to Moi helping open Jay Berry’s in Issaquah in 1982, which was once the most popular restaurant in Issaquah. Moi was the manager, bringing with him recipes handed down from Aliagas.
Jay Berry’s is where he met Tonya, his wife.
“She was a local girl, homecoming queen from Issaquah High School,” Moi said.
They married in 1984 and decided to start a family. The four children they raised are now grown. Lief and Tonya also have four grandchildren and one more on the way.
He left the restaurant business while raising his family. But now he’s back, with Filos on Issaquah Creek, his own restaurant, with some of those treasured recipes from his time with Aliagas. Filos is in the same building that was once home to Jay Berry’s. He’s come full circle.
How he got there is the rest of the story. Moi has had an interesting life, to say the least.
During his time away from the restaurant business, he had a listener supported radio talk show called “Street Talk,” which was broadcast in 23 cities. Moi said topics ranged from religion to politics to cultural issues.
He was in the construction business, too, building, remodeling and buying and selling real estate. Along the way he helped launch Mars Hill Church, but resigned from the church five years ago due to a “shift in emphasis.”
Then came the real estate crash. Tenants owed him a lot of money, and he lost a great deal of his net worth.
“Also, I was in a funk coming out of Mars Hill,” he said.
He wondered what he would do next - what did he know?
“I knew the restaurant business,” Moi said. “I love it, I love meeting the public.”
A friend helped him financially and he opened Filos on Redmond Ridge. It was a hit, but the landlord received a better offer and Moi lost the location. He was out Oct. 28.
Fortunately, a few months earlier, he had a phone call out of the blue. When he worked at Jay Berry’s, he lived with a family on Lake Washington. They had a 14-year-old kid at the time, Ian.
“I hadn’t talked to him in 25 years,” Moi said.
Ian told Moi he had purchased a property in Issaquah that he thought Moi had a connection to - the old Jay Berry’s.
It was operating as a sports-themed restaurant called “Field of Champions.” It wasn’t doing very well, so Ian thought Moi could help.
The owners of “Field of Champions” decided they wanted to sell it to Moi, but he didn’t have the $35,000 for the required downpayment.
At the Redmond Ridge restaurant, an older couple would come there and eat all the time, Moi said. They asked Moi about his potential new restaurant in Issaquah, and he told them he didn’t have the money for the downpayment.
“He pulls out his checkbook and writes me a check for $35,000,” Moi said of the donor who wishes to remain anonymous. “I asked why he was doing this, and he said, ‘I’ve watched you and your wife for nine months now and I like what you do.’”
He told Moi when he was successful, he could pay him back.
“He said pay me back when you can, and if you can’t, don’t worry about it,” he said.
Now Filos has been open about two months. Moi’s son works for him, in addition to about 20 more employees.
He said Aliagas used to go to every table at his restaurants and chat with everyone to make sure everything was okay, and now he does the same. He wants to be sure his customers are satisfied.
Filos on Issaquah Creek is open seven days a week. Hours are 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday. Saturdays, Moi is beginning a classic cocktail time from 10 p.m. until 1 a.m. where classic cocktails will accompany classic movies from the ‘40s, ‘50s and ‘60s.
The only waterfront dining establishment in Issaquah, right on Issaquah creek, Filos Issaquah Creek is at 385 NW Gilman Blvd.