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News Mon Feb 01 2010
Tribune reports that a devastating fire that started just before midnight Sunday completely destroyed Costas, a Greek restaurant that has been a cornerstone of this Greek corner of the city. The restaurant has another location in Oak Brook Terrace, but whether their histrionic "Opa!" over flaming saganaki will be heard again in its original location remains to be seen.
According to the Trib article, it took firefighters more than three hours to extinguish the fire. While it raged, the fire also heavily damaged the building on the north side of Costas, which houses Athens Grocery, Greektown Gift and Music Shop, and Pan Hellenic Pastry Shop. I used to walk past these buildings daily on my way to and from UIC until a few years ago, and the sight of bushy-eyebrowed old men sitting outside of the Pastry Shop, chatting over tiny cups of coffee and playing chess was as endearing as it could get. This building, perhaps more than any of the restaurants, seemed to anchor the "Greekness" of the area, providing everyday necessities and a place to socialize to the few remaining descendants of Greece.
The area around Greektown has been going through some gentrification with condo towers sprouting up here and there, and I only hope that the damaged building will not push the these businesses out of existence.
UPDATE: Alvin Shubert, who shot today's Rearview photo, took pictures of the fire from his nearby high-rise apartment.