After nearly five decades, The Parthenon—the beloved Greek restaurant in Chicago credited with starting the practice of lighting cheese on fire tableside—has closed. Waiters yelled “opa!” one last time when the restaurant shuttered on Monday and management posted up a sign on Tuesday announcing the closure.
“After over 48 years in business we are sad to inform you we are permanently closed,” the sign (see below) read.
Though shunned by many as being too gimmicky and theatrical, flaming saganaki became a staple of Greek-American dining with a presentation that The Parthenon’s Chris Liakouras is widely credited as inventing. It’s unclear right now why they closed, but those flames extinguished with lemon juice will be missed.
Chicago’s Greektown, just south of Randolph Restaurant Row, is changing with the addition of sports bars—like Tapworks Tavern & Grill—which cater to customers other than the Greek immigrants who clustered around Halsted Street. That was the thinking behind a failed attempt to create Aviva, a restaurant inside The Parthenon’s former banquet space that would primarily serve the guests who stayed at The Parthenon Hostel. The hostel and Aviva were run by Lorraine Rieff-Liakouras, who said she wanted to give people an alternative to Greek food. She owns the building while her husband co-owns The Parthenon.
The story surrounding Aviva is murky, as the restaurant didn’t last long. However, there’s some news regarding that space, as apparently Rieff-Liakouras will soon open a sports bar. Signs are already up for The Ambassador Public House, and it should open soon. Rieff-Liakouras didn’t return a request for comment.
The Parthenon’s owners weren’t immediately reached for comment. This story will be updated later reflecting any additional information. But for now say goodbye to a Chicago classic—one that created a spark nationally.