Greek Islands restaurant in Chicago. Photo: Facebook
CHICAGO – A mural which once adorned the interior of the Greek restaurant Pegasus in Chicago was revealed following the demolition of the building, the Chicago Sun Times (CST) reported on February 15.
“In 1990, Yiannis Melidis hired a Serbian painter to create a mural that would stretch along an inside wall of Pegasus, the Greek restaurant he was building,” CST reported, adding that “Yiannis and his wife, Maria, provided him with a picture book of the Greek islands for inspiration and obliged a request from the artist to provision him nightly with a six pack of Old Style and several Polish sausages from vendors on nearby Maxwell Street.”
“After a week he hadn’t started anything,” the couple’s son, Ceasar Melidis, told the CST noting that his parents thought: “This guy’s just eating and drinking and sleeping and staring at walls.”
The mural was finally completed in just three days and “became a well-known feature in a restaurant that became a mainstay of Greektown for nearly three decades,” CST reported, noting that Pegasus “closed in 2017, following a rent hike.”
After the building was demolished, “the mural, which shares a wall with an adjoining building, was all that remained,” CST reported.
“The mural stands out from the rubble, similar to how many of the beautiful temples and ancient architectural ruins still stood amongst the rubble after the many wars and empires took over the lands in Greece where those temples and ruins stood and still stand,” Melidis, who worked with his father at Pegasus but has since moved to the suburbs, told CST.
The demolition and the mural highlight the changes to the Greektown area. “The Pan Hellenic Pastry Shop also closed in 2017, while two other mainstay restaurants, Roditys and Parthenon, closed within about a year of Pegasus shutting its doors,” CST reported, adding that “Costa’s burned down more than a decade ago” and “Santorini, which was immediately next door to Pegasus, closed in the fall of 2020 after 31 years in operation… was also demolished this week.”
Many Greek-owned shops and restaurants still line Halsted Street in the Windy City and retain the neighborhood’s Greek character, even as most of the Greeks who lived in the area have moved away to the suburbs.
Development is also changing the area as “a mixed use building is planned for the property that formerly housed Pegasus and Santorini,” CST reported, noting that “Urbanize.com reported that plans include 80 ‘luxury rental units’ with 4,200 square feet of retail space.”
While “the project’s developers couldn’t be reached for comment,” Greek-American “George Reveliotis, a commissioner for the Greektown Special Services Area, said Greek cuisine could be returning to the spot,” CST reported.
Reveliotis owns the nearby Artopolis Bakery and told CST that “the owners have expressed a desire to install a Greek restaurant on the first floor, so hopefully that pans out.”
Reveliotis said “the demolition of both spots shows how ‘every neighborhood evolves, and we’re thankful for that,’” CST reported.
“People go to Fulton Market because it’s a place to see and be seen but they’re going to pay twice or three times for something comparable in Greektown, there’s a place for everybody, but we’re thankful they are there,” Reveliotis told CST.
“The area is still home to the National Hellenic Museum — which remains closed during the pandemic — and a Greek festival and parade, noted Dino Armiros, a museum trustee,” CST reported.
“The identity of the neighborhood is still strong,” Armiros told CST.
“We’re not threatened by new development,” said Tessie Koumi, owner of Spectrum Bar & Grill in Greektown, who mentioned several other Greek restaurants in the neighborhood, including the much-loved Greek Islands, CST reported.
“We’re here to stay and there will always be a strong Greek element here,” she told CST.
“Melidis, for one, hopes the mural at his dad’s shuttered eatery will also survive,” CST reported.
“Hopefully, the mural will remain part of whatever building goes up there,” Melidis told CST, noting that “after all… the story behind its creation shows the ‘melting pot and mingling of these old neighborhoods and cultures in Chicago.’”
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