Greektown: In the Heart of the Metropolis

By, Joe Hynan

Along Halsted Street in Chicago, there is a small strip of restaurants and cafes. It’s similar to many other places in the heavily populated city of Chicago, but with one key difference.

The place is Greektown, and the small collection of businesses there are responsible for maintaining the sole area of isolated Greek culture in Chicago. Greektown has a population of 880 and has 23 restaurants according to Chelsea Trembly, 24, museum educator at the National Hellenic Museum in Chicago.

One of the men who has taken the mantle in preserving and expanding upon Greek culture is Chris Liakouras, 75, owner of The Parthenon Restaurant. His restaurant is the oldest in Greektown, and he has been living in Greektown since 1995. According to Liakonas, the stronghold of Grecian culture in Chicago has never been better.

“Its getting better all the time; never got any worse from the beginning,” he said.

It’s because of the flourishing culture that Greektown continues to attract Greek immigrants looking for a place with which they can connect.

Panos Varfi, 29, manager and bartender of Santorini restaurant, came to America from Athens in 2008. He came because of the bad economy in Greece, and moved to Greektown with to be near his cousin, his only family in America. He said he enjoyed spending Saturday nights at Nine Muses Bar and Grill because it turns into a Greek bar with traditional Greek food music.

“So once a week, I think like I am back in Greece,” Vanfi said.

There are many people like Vanfi in Chicago. Chicago currently has the third largest Greek population of any city in the world. Only 880 of the 300,000 Greeks in Chicago live in Greektown

Put simply in the words of Omar Hatem, 25, a political researcher: “Its one of the nicest places to hang out in Chicago.”

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