Last night while walking through Greektown, my boyfriend and I stumbled by The Parthenon. What was once a popular, crowded restaurant – and a favorite of my family’s – was dark. I’d always remembered them being open late, and it was only just approaching 10pm, so I was a bit confused.
We walked over to the main door to see if they had changed their hours, but were instead greeted by a piece of printer paper in the window that read,
“Dear Valuable Customer,
After over 48 years in business we are sad to inform you that we are permanently closed.
We want to thank you for your support over the years and for the wonderful memories!”
I was in utter shock. After 48 years they closed without a single warning. Just a few weeks ago they were participating in The Taste of Greektown, with customers both buying food from their stand and eating inside their restaurant. So how could this have happened? There are a few things to consider.
Years (and I do mean years – 15 to 20) ago The Parthenon was always crowded. When you went to dine there you expected long waits that were rewarded with fabulous service, delicious food, and an overall fantastic experience. Some of my fondest childhood memories were going to The Parthenon with all of my dad’s family (a table of 20 to 30 people depending on if the St. Louis cousins were in town) and getting a huge table to rejoice, dine, laugh and catch up. And it was always a special treat when I was allowed to order a prime lamb chop instead of my usual gyros. I always looked forward to the trips that were deemed lamb chop worthy. We had our favorite waiters, too – John, Bobby, Salvador and the Big Guy. Two of which were still there, two of which were no longer working there.
Owners Chris Liakouras, who began The Parthenon with his brother Bill, and Chris’ daughter, Yanna, manager and partner, were always busy and always greeting people with smiles, hugs, and warm welcomes. They barely had time to sit and catch their breath because people were constantly moving in and out of the restaurant.
But after a while The Parthenon could not hang on and the restaurant became a shell of what it once was. In more recent years the restaurant never seemed more than a third full, and Chris and Yanna were always sitting at the bar, rarely looking excited or happy. There were times I came in to get a to-go order where I wasn’t acknowledged for minutes until the bartender came back from grabbing something and could take my order. The servers who remained were not as fast and agile as they once were. I remember going in a few years ago with friends and it took us 20 minutes just to get a server.
This past February the banquet hall area of The Parthenon was turned into a second restaurant, a mediterranean restaurant called Aviva. I’m still never going to be certain why with one seemingly failing restaurant they decided to open up potential competition next door. Needless to say I wasn’t surprised when Aviva closed down within months.
And then the most brutal blow within the past few years, at the end of March The Parthenon was shut down by the city due to failed health inspections, something that it is hard for any restaurant to bounce back from. According to an article on DNA info, “On March 22, the restaurant was cited for roaches, rodent droppings and other violations including no hot water in a women’s restroom. On March 29, the restaurant failed again.”
Though they reopened within a week, there was little that could be done to resurrect what was once an iconic Greektown venue.
While it’s not sure what made them close for good – poor business, no money, etc – it’s hard not to wonder if they were going to be shut down again and wanted to do it gracefully rather than by force. Either way, those childhood memories of family gatherings with prime lamb chops will surely be missed.