GREEKS ABROAD
Chicago’s Greektown Restaurant Week Kicks off Celebration of 1821 Bicentennial

CHICAGO – Chicago’s Greektown is hosting its first ever Restaurant Week, March 1-7 with special offers from popular Greektown restaurants and bars. The new event kicks off the neighborhood’s month-long commemoration of the 200th anniversary of Greek Independence Day this March, with more special events to be announced in the coming weeks.

Featured restaurants for Greektown Restaurant Week include: 9 Muses Bar & Grill; Aodake Ramen; Artopolis Bakery, Cafe and Agora; Athena Restaurant; Dugan’s; Greek Islands Restaurant; Mr. Greek Gyros; Primo’s Chicago Pizza; Spectrum Bar & Grill; and Taco Burrito King.

Greektown Restaurant Week is sponsored by Greektown SSA #16, the neighborhood’s business improvement district.

“The event is a celebration of 200 years of independence from the Ottoman Empire, March 25, 1821 was the year that the Greeks rebelled against the empire,” said George Reveliotis, a Greektown Special Service Areas Commissioner and owner of Artopolis Bakery, Cafe and Agora, WTTW reported. “We are using this great day for the commemoration, but for every commemoration that we celebrate, it is a means of gathering, families, and friends. Hopefully, we can put a nice spotlight on all the merchants, the restaurants, the cafes.”

Greektown is located “within Chicago’s Near West Side community area, lining Halsted Street from about Madison Street to Harrison Street, and its surrounding area,” WTTW reported, adding that “the community hasn’t always existed within those bounds,” according to Kristi Athas of the National Hellenic Museum.

“The Greektown you see today has only been Greektown since roughly 1963,” Athas told WTTW. “The construction of UIC, the Eisenhower Expressway, a variety of those projects forced the community to move and to really rebuild and put down new roots.”

Athas said that “this speaks to the resilience of the Greek American community as a whole,” WTTW reported.

Among the many restaurants and businesses in Greektown for decades, “Athenian Candle has been around for a century, and Greek Islands are also well-known in the community,” WTTW reported, adding that “amid rising rent costs and developers eyeing the area — which is a part of the West Loop — the coronavirus and its restrictions has posed an additional threat to Greektown.”

Following the second ban on indoor dining last fall, “Santorini, a staple in the neighborhood, closed,” WTTW reported, adding that in spite of the tough times, many of the “restaurant owners say Greektown isn’t going anywhere.”

“It’s really a destination,” said Dalila Youkhana, owner of Athena Restaurant, told WTTW. “People continue to come out and support, so I don’t see it going anywhere.”

Youkhana said that “customers have shown an outpouring of support, ordering takeout when indoor dining wasn’t allowed, and calling to check in on the staff,” WTTW reported.

“Greektown has always shown resilience, so it’s really been a great time to see people come together,” Youkhana told WTTW. “We’re definitely here to stay, and we really appreciate the support of our neighborhood.”

Athena Restaurant, Spectrum Bar & Grill and other restaurants will be participating in Greektown Restaurant Week.

“I am very happy and excited to be a part of this Greektown Restaurant Week,” said Andreas Koumi, owner of Spectrum Bar & Grill and president of the Greektown Chamber of Commerce, WTTW reported.

Koumi said that “15 of his dinners will be buy one get one half off for patrons who mention Greektown Restaurant Week,” WTTW reported.

“I wish I could do better and give them the other one free, but things are tough,” Koumi told WTTW.

Ald. Walter Burnett, Jr. of the 27th Ward, which includes Greektown, says that “the vaccine and loosening restrictions provides a light at the end of the tunnel, but that the restaurant community is still struggling,” WTTW reported.

“What’s holding them up is the community ordering take out,” Burnett told WTTW. “Go into the restaurants, most of their business is taking out deliveries. The community is helping them a lot, but they’re still hurting real bad.”

The National Hellenic Museum is also a staple in the community, “though it has been closed since the beginning of the pandemic… its indoor space is currently being used by a new food distribution program launched by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America Metropolis of Chicago,” WTTW reported, adding that “the program, called Project HOPE, which stands for Humanitarian Outreach and Philanthropic Engagement, distributes food to communities across the Chicago area.”

“COVID wasn’t the reason we established this program, but it was a catalyst to bring a sense of urgency for us to really kick it into high gear,” Yanni Sianis of Project HOPE told WTTW.

On Feb. 26, “the program plans to distribute food and blankets, along with masks and hand sanitizer to people experiencing homelessness in Chicago,” WTTW reported.

The National Hellenic Museum’s virtual programming is also available on its YouTube channel and its podcast, NHM Dialogues, available on Listen Notes.

“This winter, Greektown also opened an outdoor art exhibit, called Fanciful Fish,” WTTW reported, noting that the exhibit “designed to celebrate Greek culture,” was “created by Chicago artists, 21 fish sculptures, all painted differently, [that] line Halsted Street in Greektown.”

“We’re all about welcoming everyone and embracing our culture and joining us in all of our festivities. This area is just so beautiful, so festive, so warm, so welcoming, you don’t want to miss out on the experience,” said Kiki Whitehead, one of the artists involved in the project who created the sculpture “Love-Raki,” WTTW reported.

A list of Greektown Chicago restaurants is available online: greektownchicago.org/directory.

More information about Greektown Restaurant Week is available online: https://greektownchicago.org/2021-greektown-restaurant-week/.

Source: Thenationalherald.com

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