Opened in 1982 by husband and wife team Argyrios and Denise Arambadjis, “the Greek” (as staff, patrons, and neighborhood regulars fondly called it) set an early standard for classic Greek cuisine prepared with a modern twist. Where other Greek establishments in the Cities could be rote or unrecognizably forward-thinking, It’s Greek to Me spent decades courting patrons by toeing a line between comfort and surprise.
When the Arambadjis sold the restaurant portion of the Greek in 2017 (Argyrios still owns the building), it was to another married duo: Nick and Athena Karos. Though Nick spent most of his career trading stocks and Athena’s in education, they leapt at the opportunity to continue the Greek’s legacy of hospitality thanks to a shared family background in restaurants that went several generations deep.
As of late, the Karoses deployed a variety of new business models to boost clientele at the Greek. Staring in March, they began opening for lunch Tuesday through Sunday. Then, a “marketplace” packed with imported goods was installed to tempt patrons as they wend their way toward the bar/dining area. This summer saw the addition of a weekly DJ night aimed to transform their otherwise placid patio into a straight-up party. But ultimately, holding this brick-and-mortar restaurant proved too much in Uptown’s climate.
Denise Arambadjis’ description of moving from Chicago to open the Greek in the ’80s – when Uptown had a reputation for being sketchy, with almost a red-light vibe to it – is unrecognizable compared to present day. Near the end, she says, “When we first opened, we couldn’t get a French loaf of bread. We couldn’t get a whole fish. The food scene has changed so much, it’s amazing. And it’s all for the good.”
Is it though? Or maybe a better question is: At what cost?
The question of who gets to own (or keep) restaurants in a neighborhood with rapidly changing demographics like Uptown becomes prickly, fast. (This isn’t a new, question of course.) But since April alone, two very different high-profile restaurants – Meyvn (newbie, well pedigreed) and Famous Dave’s (the barbecue stalwart) – have gone under. Now it’s the Greek’s turn to roll over.
On the restaurant’s last night in business, Athena Karos spoke with City Pages about the closure.
“With two bus lines blocking off the corner and the city selling the parking lot behind the restaurant,” Karos told City Pages, “it came down to accessibility.” Karos cited disabled patrons, family members, and an insurmountable “mental block” in an era of Uber curbside pickup culture that prevents them from continuing at Lyn-Lake at this time.
“We’ve run the numbers. We’ve done what we can at this location,” she said, before lamenting the chapter’s close and looking to the future with hope.
“I hope you like the potatoes, they’re my mother’s recipe. And those Gigantes? You’ll find the same dishes in Greece,” Athena Karos said, gesturing from her elegant white capelet. (Let the record show both dishes are worth taking plane, train, or automobile to secure.)
These dishes and more will come with wherever the restaurant next resurfaces. It’s the Kanoses’ hope that will happen within Minneapolis proper. Per a message announcing the closure on the Greek’s Facebook page, their mission remains one of “maintaining our efforts to provide you with authentic modern Mediterranean Greek cuisine, catering, and our merchandise at a new location to be announced in the near future.”
Until this new location is established, It’s Greek to Me’s catering service will continue uninterrupted.