Detroit's oldest Greek restaurant to shut doors
Owner, 80, will serve the last diners at the 107-year-old New Hellas Café on Sunday.
Jennifer Youssef / The Detroit News
On Sunday night, the last glass of wine at New Hellas Café in Greektown will be poured and sipped. The final "Opa!" will be shouted. And then the doors will close for the last time.
After 107 years in Detroit, New Hellas, the city's oldest Greek restaurant, will be only a memory.
Owner Gus Anton, 80, of Grosse Pointe said he can't keep up with the busy life of a restaurateur anymore and will shut down the popular business his father opened in 1901.
"I'm very sad, naturally," he said. "But at my age, what can you do? I'm old. I need the rest."
The 35 New Hellas employees will receive severance pay and, if the restaurant is sold, Anton hopes the staff will be hired back. For now, he isn't certain what will happen to the building once the restaurant is closed.
Anton was 20 when he started working for his father, James, a chef in Greece, at New Hellas. When James died in 1950, Gus took over and has been running it ever since.
"For 60 years, I've been here," Anton said. "I'll miss the restaurant, the employees and all the wonderful people who come here."
New Hellas Café was featured twice on the Food Network.
The restaurant also has been a stop for visiting celebrities, including comedian Bob Hope, chef Emeril Lagasse and actress Lainie Kazan.
New Hellas, which means Greece, has always been a part of 37-year-old Rosemary Tokatlian's life.
Her mother met her father there while her mom was an employee. The family goes to New Hellas regularly and Tokatlian has worked there off and on for 20 years.
She works as a hostess occasionally and considers the Antons her second set of parents. She teared up Friday at the thought the restaurant will be closed within a couple of days.
"It means the world to me," said Tokatlian of Grosse Pointe Park.
"It's a fantastic place with fantastic people. There's no collection of people like this anywhere else in the world."
Dino Mitropoulis, also known as Dino the Tailor, owner of the Birmingham store of the same name, first walked in New Hellas in 1968, the year he arrived in Detroit from his native Greece.
"I tasted the lamb chops and I said 'OK, this is where I come to eat the lamb chops.' I eat lamb chops there just maybe a month ago. Still the best lamb chops in the state," said Mitropoulis, 65. "I've known Gus when he was young and good looking, and that, my friend, was a long time ago. He's just like all good Greek businessmen who work very hard. They do it because they love this country and what it's done for us."
Longtime customer Becky Pinterich of Dearborn has been coming to New Hellas with her family for 35 years and says there is no other Greek restaurant of its caliber anywhere in Detroit. The family gathered together for their last meal at New Hellas on Friday night.
"This is the last hurrah," said Pinterich, 66. "We're thrilled for Gus and Zoe, but we're real sad."
Vassos Avgoustis, 70, opened his restaurant, Cyprus Taverna, next door to New Hellas in 1992. He got his start in the restaurant business by working as a waiter for Anton in 1982.
"It's a shame actually because this restaurant started Greektown," he said.
"It's going to be a loss because it's very famous. Hopefully the new owners will keep it going."
Detroit News Staff Writer Louis Aguilar contributed to this report. You can reach Jennifer Youssef at (313) 222-2319 or firstname.lastname@example.org.