The very first. The very best. The most fun.
From the sidewalk window, you'll get a wave from the cook slicing lamb from a spit. Inside, your waiter cries "Opa!" as saganaki ignites in orange flames. And, from surrounding tables people are laughing and toasting. Yes, it's a typical day at The Parthenon—Greektown's anchor restaurant.
Over the years the media has honored us with feature stories, glowing reviews and fabulous recommendations. We're proud of the numerous awards we've received from newspapers, magazines, radio and television stations, including:
• "Best Gyros"
• "Best Saganaki"
• "Pick of the Week"
• "Best Greek Restaurant"
Before saganaki was flambéed here, it was merely fried cheese, and before we put gyros on the menu, America had never heard of it.
What founder Chris Liakouras began with his brother Bill, is taken to a new level by Chris' daughter Yanna, manager and partner, along with co-partner and chef, Sotiris Stasinos, who is always adding new dishes to the lengthy menu and daily specials.
A chronicle of The Parthenon History:
1958 – On the Road
Chris Liakouras and a friend, Petros Tzafaroglou, move to Chicago from Detroit in Petros' car with only $64 between them. Petros was behind with his car payments, but both men soon get jobs delivering Red Book phone directories.
1959 – Brothers Unite
Bill Liakouras moves to from Detroit to Chicago to join his brother Chris.
1960 - Working, Saving, Planning
Bill and Chris work as waiters at the former Mandis Chicken King Restaurant, and later at a Greektown restaurant. While they work and save money during the next eight years, they start planning to open their own restaurant.
1967 – A Deal Worth Drinking Over
The seeds of "The Parthenon" are planted when the Greektown location becomes available. Chris clinches the deal with the owner over bottles of retsina.
1968, July 5th – History-Making Grand Opening
The Parthenon opens its doors on Chris' birthday at 314 S. Halsted and culinary history is made! Flaming saganaki and gyros are introduced, not just to Chicago, but to the United States! A three man crew does it all: Chef Angelo Gailas, trained in Greece; co-owner Bill Liakouras, as bartender and manager; and co-owner Chris Liakouras, as host, waiter and busboy. The first day's take: $110.
1968, September 14th – The First Line Awaits
The restaurant experiences its first waiting line of customers. Host Chris happily serves ouzo to those standing in line - the hospitable Greek way. During the first two years of business, the Liakouras brothers offer samples from their menu to each table to familiarize customers with their dishes.
1969 – More Chairs, Please
The first small expansion takes place, adding 20 more seats in the back room. The restaurant now seats 110
1969, June – Robbery Becomes a Bonus
The safe is broken into and thieves get away with $14,000 in cash and checks. All the media cover the robbery. On television, Bill is visibly upset, while easy-going Chris looks on the sunny side. Supporters immediately pack The Parthenon for dinner. Chris later said, "We couldn't have afforded that much media coverage. The robbery actually ended up being good for business!"
1971, September – Getting Bigger
The Liakouras brothers buy the building next door to the south, and the first big expansion takes place, adding another 190 seats, now accommodating 300.
1974 – Hail To The Chef
Chef Sotiris Stasinos arrives to work in the kitchen with Chef Angelo Gailas. Several years later Angelo will return to Greece.
1975, July 5th – Chris Goes Up In Flames
At the 7th anniversary, a photographer tries to capture Chris' flaming saganaki by directing him "Closer to the left; now closer to the saganaki." Suddenly—Woosh! To the horror of onlookers Chris' hair catches fire, while he remains cheerfully unaware. All ends well – no injuries, and a memorable picture for posterity.
1975, July – Dining with a Star
As a special anniversary greeting, Chris makes an LP record and gives away 6,000 copies as gifts.
(LONG STRETCH IN BETWEEN WITH NO NEWS)
1993, Spring – Our Quarter Century Facelift
The restaurant is remodeled, inside and out, before its 25th anniversary. An artistic new sign is erected outside.
1993, July 5th – Partying Hard at 25
The Parthenon celebrates 25 and has a big party with a lavish, complimentary buffet, live music and Greek dancing. The Liakouras family, including Bill, travels from Greece for the celebration.
1995, February – Like Dad, Like Daughter
Yanna joins her dad to assist him in managing the restaurant. "Even when I was a teen-ager he made me feel like an adult," she said. Chris adds, "She's smarter than I am."
1996, March – One Bar Bigger
A chic new bar is added in the adjoining building next door, connecting it to the original bar. The entryway becomes more spectacular and welcoming, and a glass display case features T-shirts, totes and other merchandise.
2008, July 5th – 4 Decades Young
The Parthenon turns 40 and is in its prime of life, ready for the next millennium, with vows from Chris and Yanna to continue to evolve and expand. Kali Orexi! (Good appetite!)