Greektown Tradition, Culture and History in the West Loop

 Step through a unique six-pillared Greek pavilion at the intersection of  Halstead and Monroe and you're in Greektown, located in Chicago's near-west  community, one of Chicago's most popular neighborhoods for natives and tourists  alike.  

 Though other ethnic neighborhoods in Chicago have become homogenized, Greektown  still retains its “Old World” charm. It's a bit of Athens in the Windy City where Greek is still spoken on  the streets and visitors will find North Halstead Street, the main street of  Greektown, lined with Greek shops, restaurants and cafes. The Aegean-vibe of  the neighborhood can be deceiving though since the inhabitants are of Greektown  are no longer predominantly Greek. During the past few decades many of the  original Greek immigrants moved to the suburbs thus evolving the community into  the diverse and urban community that exists today. Professionals, families,  Greeks and non-Greeks co-exist in this small and colorful neighborhood located  very close to the Loop. It’s actually in the West Loop neighborhood, considered the gateway to the near  west side.  

 Greek Chicago

 In the 1840s, Greek mariners came to the bustling port of Chicago to work on  freight ships that plied the waters of Lake Michigan. At that time, Chicago was  a major port exporting goods from the west to the cities on the East Coast, and  importing goods from the east to supply the western expansion. As their numbers  grew, a thriving Greek community was born. Greek immigrants opened shops,  restaurants, cafes; they constructed elaborate Greek Orthodox Churches, such as  the beautiful St. Basil's, revered by art lovers from around the world; and  left an indelible mark on the history of Chicago.  

 The original Greektown neighborhood was concentrated around Harrison, Blue  Island and Halstead. In the 1960s, development created the Eisenhower Parkway  as well as the University of Illinois Chicago campus. Both of these massive  projects required land, and the land chosen was Greektown. While such  development might spell the end of a neighborhood, the Greeks wanted to  preserve their Chicago heritage, thus the community relocated a few blocks  away. Within a few years the “new” Greektown was firmly established and the “never say die” community soon became famous, mainly because of its Greek food. In 1968, Gyros,  (pronounced yeer-ohs), the famous sandwich made from lamb roasted on a vertical  spit then thinly-sliced and served on a pita usually with lettuce, onions,  crumbled feta cheese, and topped with a cucumber yogurt sauce called Tzatziki (pronounced za-ZEE-kee),  and Saganaki (pronounced sah-GHAH-nee), for flaming cheese, were introduced by  restaurants in Greektown. Students at the newly constructed university campus  would soon spread the word and now gyros are eaten across the nation.  

 Architecture in Greektown today is varied; low-rise condominiums, former  warehouses and office buildings converted to condominiums, and office buildings sit side-by-side with Greek restaurants decorated with  Greek columns, statues of Gods and Greek flags. Just outside the Greektown  neighborhood is the University of Chicago; the United Center home of the  Chicago Bulls and Chicago Blackhawks, as well as Wrigley Field home of the  Chicago Cubs. Greektown has become a favorite neighborhood among all age  groups. David Schwimmer, the actor who portrayed Ross on the hit TV show “Friends” recently purchased a condo in Greektown.  


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