Late last year, the owners of Santorini began soliciting interest with those who might want to purchase their property at the corner of Halsted and Adams. Like other immigrant enclaves across the country, Greektown has changed as many have headed to the suburbs. Development has also reshaped the neighborhood as the mystique of Randolph Restaurant Row helped make real estate prices soar in the West Loop.
As restaurants temporarily closed for winter last year, not wanting to deal with the complications of keeping the workplace safe during a pandemic and trying to serve customers during cold weather, there was hope that Santorini would reopen. As birds begin chirping and ice melts around Chicago, some restaurants are returning from hibernation. Santorini is not among them.
“The closing was abrupt,” says George Reveliotis, the commissioner for the special service area group (SSA) that serves Greektown restaurant and business owners. Reveliotis points the group works with Greek and non-Greek members.
According to Reveliotis, Santorini’s owners have struck a deal to redevelop the space, as part of a grander scheme to reinvigorate the neighborhood corridor. While he’s not privy to details, he hopes the ground-floor space will be reserved for a new restaurant or retail. Reveliotis sees redevelopment as “a sign of rebirth.” He doesn’t have much of a choice.
“The alternative to a rebirth is death or abandonment, right?” he says.
Reveliotis is hoping to bring some energy back to Greektown. He co-owns Artopolis Bakery & Cafe, which has spent 21 years near Halsted and Jackson. After buying the business in 2019 with partners Andre Papantoniou — co-founder of gyros manufacturer Olympia Foods — they feel it’s time for some renovations so Artopolis could survive for another 20 years. Plans call for updates to the interiors, machinery, and display cases. Reveliotis wants to showcase the bakery’s cookies, cakes, and other desserts better.
“We believe in the area, we believe in the concept so much,” Reveliotis says. “We decided to invest in the area, in an established business. We are looking to revitalize, reinvent, if you will.”
As the city announces the return of its expanded outdoor dining program — an initiative born out of necessity after COVID-19 forced the shut down of indoor dining — Reveliotis knows that closing off Halsted isn’t something that city officials can do to help Greektown’s restaurants. Halsted is a major north-to-south artery for automobile traffic.
But still, during the pandemic two new restaurants have opened in Greektown, Reveliotis touts. Rye Deli & Drink is a Jewish-inspired deli and Aodake Ramen is a Japanese restaurant. Neither of them serve Greek food, but Reveliotis welcomes the investment. Though Greektown might not feel the same as it did in the ‘80s, Reveliotis mentions restaurants like Greek Islands, Athena, Spectrum, 9 Muses, and Mr. Gyros.
“I don’t see them going anywhere anytime soon,” he says.