After more than four decades, a dining staple in Windsor is closing its doors for good.
The iconic Greek restaurant Olympus in Thanasi, which opened in 1981, will serve its last meal on Saturday evening.
Owner Nick Pontikis said when he opened Thanasi’s there weren’t many options for Greek food in Windsor, with souvlaki, gyros and a few other things like lamb chops available.
“We brought Greek cuisine to Windsor in 1981,” Pontikis told CBC Windsor on Friday. “Back then, there was maybe only one or two places that served things like gyros, souvlaki, which is pretty much the burger and hot dog of Greek cuisine.”
Pontikis said the restaurant had 65 seats when it opened in Gladeview Plaza and a full menu of traditional Greek dishes.
WATCH | Owner Nick Pontikis talks about the legacy of Thanasi’s Greek restaurant Olympus:
There have been a few location changes, but Thanasi’s has been on the corner of Tecumseh Road and Pierre Avenue for over three decades.
But now Pontikis is ready to move on, having recently announced his retirement.
And on Friday he said it was “surreal”.
“You think of all the lives you’ve touched,” he said, emotion clear on his face and in his voice. “It makes me sad, but happy.”
“I’ve had people come in with their babies, and now those same babies are coming in with their babies,” Pontikis said. “It’s been 41 years of love.”
And Pontikis was also sure to credit Thanasi’s staff for the restaurant’s success.
“They are so excellent,” he said. “I have people who have been with me since 1981. Most of my servers have been with me since 1983.”
“It’s exceptional,” Pontikis said. “The hardest part will be saying goodbye to my staff.
On Friday, residents of Windsor were enjoying their last chance to sample Thanasi’s cuisine.
Among them was Mike Holmes.
“It’s my first and my last time,” Holmes said. “I’ve always wanted to eat here since I was little.”
“I broke my chops trying to get a spot here today,” he said. “I called them about 20 times, they finally called me back, got a reservation for [Friday] at noon.”
Holmes said Thanasi’s visit was worth it.
“It was amazing,” he said.
Bill Johns and his wife Mary, meanwhile, have dined at Thanasi’s for years, and the pair made another visit on Friday.
“I’ve always enjoyed it,” said Bill Johns. “Excellent Greek cuisine.”
WATCH | Customers come for one last gyro and saganaki:
“It’s a Windsor tradition, and we’re sorry to see it continue.”
His wife, Mary Johns, added, “I love the service. The service is wonderful.”
Eddie and Marilyn Renaud also made their return to the restaurant on Friday, after relying on takeout during the COVID-19 pandemic. But they have been regulars in Thanasi for decades.
“That little table by the fountain was our favorite table,” Eddie Renaud said. “If it was open, we’d be sitting right there.”
And although the pair aren’t going out too much these days – Eddie Renaud noted he’s 85 and doesn’t always have the energy – they made sure to pay Thanasi one last visit.
“We had to come,” he said. “One of our favorite places.”
Marilyn Renaud, meanwhile, said she wished she could bring something back to Thanasi to help her remember.
“The memories, I don’t want to lose them,” she said.
As to why Pontikis is closing Thanasi’s, he said it was not due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I’ve barbecued over 1.8 million chicken skewers,” he said. “Forty-one years in a hot kitchen is asking a lot of you. »
“I can go on for another 40 years, I don’t want to,” Pontikis said. “I’m tired, I want to travel. I was born in Athens, Greece. I want to go home and not have to worry about what happens to this 300-seat restaurant.”
Thanasi’s has been sold and the new restaurant, serving Indian cuisine, will take its place in the future.