|Plato as depicted by Raphael|
"This City is what it is because our citizens are what they are." Plato
So many of the highest attainments of the Western world have its roots in Ancient Greece; from the epic poems of Homer to the plays of Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides to the Philosophy of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. There is much we can still learn from these wise Ancients but perhaps we would be well advised to also learn a few lessons from the Modern Greeks here among us.
When I moved to Chicago in 1988, the first thing that I noticed about the people that grew up here was how they self-identified according to ethnicity first and then neighborhood. Of all Chicago's many ethnic groups, the one I feel the most at home with are the Greeks. They always seem to be so honorable, industrious, proud of their Greek heritage, and family focused. While they may have a reputation as stoic, I've always found them warm, friendly, and inviting..after you get to know them.
|John Kass of The Chcago Tribune. This son of a South Side Greek grocer is Chicago's top newspaperman and radio host.|
This was even a surprise to me but Chicago has the 3rd largest Greek population of any city in the world. Even with such a sizable local population the Greeks still punch well above their weight.
According to one source over 2,200 Chicago area restaurants are owned and staffed by Greeks with many having several generations involved in every aspect of the day to day operation.
|97 year old WWII hero Pete Poulos featured last month|
One such Greek restaurant I frequent several times a week for my midday sustenance is Patio Beef up in the Edgewater neighborhood on Chicago's North Side. It might more accurately be described as a 'hot dog stand' as it is primarily a burger, hot dog, gyros, and Italian beef lunch spot but it does have healthier fare that I usually partake in such as their Greek Salad or Greek Chicken which I find delish!
|located in the 'Beautiful Edgewater' North Side neighborhood of Chicago at 6022 North Broadway|
Patio Beef has been in business for over 32 years and is owned and run by Leo Diantzikis, his charming wife Soula, and two daughters- Maria and Theodora aka 'Teri'. In this era when immigration is a very hot button political issue, Leo's story is one all sides can admire and learn from. Leo was born in the tiny village of Karyes, Greece near Sparta and his father died from tuberculosis when he was just a boy of 4 no doubt causing a lot of adversity for Leo's mother and her young family. Leo's mother eventually emigrated to Chicago joining her brothers and Leo followed her after a stint in the Greek Army arriving when he was a young man of 21 in 1968. Leo worked in a number of Chicago restaurants before going back to Greece where he met and soon married his very charming and beautiful wife Soula. They've been happily married for 43 years and have 3 daughters with all 3 pitching in at the restaurant over the years with now just Maria and Theodora assisting day to day.
"The greatest wealth is to live content with little" Plato
|Leo with his very charming wife of 43 years 'Soula'|
Leo says the neighborhood has undergone many transformations during his 32 years in business and he corrected me when I merely referred to it as 'Edgewater' and insisted it's "Beautiful Edgewater". Indeed it has been going through a renaissance of late and nothing attests to that better than a Whole Foods opening directly across the street in March.
If you ever find yourself in the neighborhood of 'Beautiful Edgewater' on Chicago's North Side, stop in and say hello to the charming Soula, her daughters Theodora and Maria, and my new buddy Leo who will be either helping the cooks, Carlos and Lalo, or holding court with some regulars at a side table. I recommend the 1/2 Greek Chicken with rice (splash of gravy) and salad. If you're there early afternoon, GSL will likely be there as I walk an extra couple of blocks and pass about a dozen other restaurants in order to be greeted by Soula's lovely smile and see a shining example of the American Dream and a small pillar upon which great cities are built.