Greektown: Distinctive to Chicago

Benita Ning

Greektown is a hub where people of all ethnicities can enjoy the Greek pastries, groceries, and music.

On Halstead Street, visitors can find The Pegasus restaurant, The Parthenon restaurant, and the Pan Hellenic pastry shop as well as the National Hellenic Museum.

The population of 880 people is contained within the boundaries of Madison Street, Eisenhower Expressway, Kennedy Expressway, and Green Street.

“If you walk into a Greek pastry shop, what do you probably know, Baklava, right?” said James Manolakos, 36, who lives in Greek town and is the owner of the Pan Hellenic along with his sister. “If they’re willing to try something new, we can work on that.”

One of his customers, Omar Ahten, 25, is a political researcher from Washington D.C. who said, “Every time I come to Chicago, I come to Greektown. It’s one of the nicest places in Chicago… We don’t really have any places like this in Washington.”

Greektown is unique to a few places in the U.S. and the Chicago area has one of the largest Greek populations in the U.S around 300,000 people.

Chelsea Trembley, 24, a museum educator at the National Hellenic Museum said that Greek immigrants began coming to Chicago in the 1880s in search of new economic opportunities and to join family.

“I have a cousin here.” Panos Varfi, 29, the manager at the restaurant Santorini who lives in Chicago said,  “I came here.”

Varfi came from Athens, Greece in 2006 and lived in Tarpon Springs, the third largest Greek community in the U.S. because of the suffering economy, but moved to Chicago to join his cousin who had moved to the U.S. the year before him.

He misses Greece and hopes to go back after his retirement, to reach back to his roots, he lives in Greektown and frequents the café 9 Muses that turns into a Greek bar on Saturday nights with Greek music.

Varfi has advice for his fellow Greek immigrants: “I try to tell them not to make the mistake I did because it’s easy to come; it’s hard to stay.”

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