September 28, 2023


Free For All Food

Restaurant celebrates 50 several years of business in N. Carolina

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) — Angelo Ballas was organizing a massive social gathering this calendar year to thank clients for the Grecian Corner’s 50 decades on the Winston-Salem restaurant scene.

That social gathering isn’t occurring, but Ballas is grateful that these very same clients have continued to aid the cafe by means of a pandemic and in all probability its toughest 12 months however.

“We have terrific prospects,” Ballas claimed. “I’ve been touched by the way the local community has been so supportive.”

Grecian Corner opened in December 1970 at 101 Eden Terrace, a quick facet street that connects Cloverdale Avenue and To start with Road, in the shadow of then N.C. Baptist Clinic, now Wake Forest Baptist Clinical Center.

Angelo’s uncle, Jimmy Ballas, opened Grecian Corner in 1970. Inside a 12 months or two he remaining to open up Zorba the Greek’s on Stratford Street and turned Grecian Corner about to his brother, George. For the next 30 decades, George Ballas would be the deal with of Grecian Corner, so much so that in the early 1990s, the indication was changed to George’s Grecian Corner — a moniker that continues to this working day.

In 1990, the restaurant was immortalized — disguised as a generic pizza joint — in a scene in Mr. Future, just one of the 1st big element films to be shot in Winston-Salem.

George Ballas, a single of numerous Greek immigrants in the Winston-Salem restaurant small business, was the kind of palms-on proprietor who cultivated buyer loyalty due to the fact he remembered absolutely everyone who handed by means of his doorways.

That attentiveness and a menu that available some thing for everyone bred achievement. Grecian Corner constantly had continual stream of prospects who relied on it for inexpensive, steady, loved ones friendly fare.

George Ballas’ concept presented a blend of best hits — Greek, Italian and American delicacies. Some folks arrived for the souvlaki and gyros. Other folks ordered the spaghetti, and nevertheless much more arrived for the warm puppies, hamburgers or sandwiches.

Angelo Ballas took above functioning the restaurant in 2001, and he and his wife, Georgia, officially turned the entrepreneurs in 2002. George Ballas retired, then handed absent in 2008.

There was a quick-lived enlargement into Clemmons from 2005 to 2007, but for the most element Angelo Ballas has centered on his main organization, preserving his uncle’s vision and his memory alive.

The menu at Grecian Corner has altered cherished minor more than the yrs. It even now provides a veal cutlet sandwich ($4.50), a after preferred item now lengthy overlooked by quite a few other eating places. The spaghetti a la Venice ($8.95) — with onions, peppers, mushrooms and mozzarella — is however a ideal-seller, while the Greek-design spaghetti with feta ($7.95) has its admirers, too. Other Italian products consist of lasagna ($8.65) rooster veal and eggplant Parmesan ($8.95 each and every).

The most popular item on the menu is the rooster souvlaki plate with a Greek salad ($11.80), although for several years the cafe offered only the traditional pork souvlaki. “People bugged my uncle for a extended time to add the hen souvlaki,” Angelo Ballas reported. “Now it outsells the pork 10 to 1.”

Other Greek items consist of the gyro ($6.85), moussaka ($8.95) and spanakopita ($5.85). The spanakopita is a comparatively the latest addition beneath Angelo Ballas’ tenure, as is the common avgolemono (Greek lemon soup ($4.25).

Grecian Corner sells really a couple hot canine (now Nathan’s all-beef canines). Other sandwiches incorporate steak hoagie, BLT, Reuben and hummus pita.

Just in case none of that appeals to diners, Grecian corner also sells a range of pizzas, ($9.65 to $13.14 for a 12-inch).

A pair of newish things consist of a chicken pesto pita, sweet potato waffle chips and cranberry pecan salad, but most of the meals is just as George Ballas envisioned back in the 1970s. “About 90 p.c is possibly unchanged,” Angelo Ballas said.

Only a couple of other factors have adjusted more than 50 several years. The cafe is pretty compact — it opened as a Minnie Pearl fried rooster restaurant in 1969 prior to the Ballas spouse and children took it in excess of. The Ballases managed to squeeze in about 50 seats in the first making, fondly referred to as “cozy.”

In 2013, Angelo Ballas embarked on a important renovation. The bogs ultimately had been obtainable from inside of the cafe. “That was big for us,” he explained. “For 43 years, people experienced to go outside when it was 30 levels to use the lavatory.”

He also crafted a new dining home on the facet, rising the seating to 80. He even tinkered with the concept of transferring the cafe subsequent door to the old Pier 1 creating on First Road. “But when I pointed out it to prospects, they explained, ‘No, never shift it!’”

Yet another huge modify was the acceptance of credit history cards in 2015. “For 45 a long time, we ended up cash-only,” Ballas explained. “When we extra credit score cards, I experienced to place it on the indicator out front, since no just one considered it.”

Irrespective of the updates, Grecian Corner retained its ambiance as a “simple, snug very little put,” as Ballas explained it, and which is just how consumers like it.

Ann Jones has been coming to Grecian Corner for 48 of her 86 decades. She would consume there generally 5 occasions a 7 days. While she’s not having in the dining area throughout the pandemic, she even now phone calls in to-go orders, and she can not hold out to get again. “I overlook it incredibly considerably. I overlook the people today. I was really close to George and his spouse, Loula, and Angelo is an extraordinary human being, way too. They’ve been like loved ones.”

Anne Butler explained she has been heading about the moment a 7 days considering that the 1980s. “I normally get the rooster souvlaki platter with the Greek salad,” she reported. “It’s very good food. It is steady. I know what I’m having. The employees appreciates my title. They know I like my tea unsweetened. They definitely take treatment of their prospects. It is just an quick location to get a good meal.”

Linda Hill and her late husband, Gene, built it their go-to restaurant for several years, partly for the reason that they lived just two blocks away in the West Highlands community. “This has been our neighborhood hangout for 38 years,” she claimed. “We have celebrated anniversaries there. We have celebrated birthdays. My young ones grew up having there.”

She recalled that, when Gene Hill died four decades ago, Angelo confirmed up unannounced with a carful of meals.

“He introduced pans of hen souvlaki, pita, jugs of iced tea and bouquets. They’re just extremely generous people,” Hill said.

This spring, standard shoppers like Borgia Walker placed massive orders for takeout to go to charities, this sort of as the Bethesda Middle for the Homeless. Chris Clifton of Grace, Clifton and Tisdale purchased more than enough meals to feed dozens of law-enforcement officers. Usually, Ballas would kick in his individual contribution, way too, knocking 10 or 20% off the monthly bill for such donations.

Customers have actually stuck with the restaurant by means of the pandemic, Ballas claimed.

“We’ve been blessed,” claimed normal manager Denise Decker, who has labored at Grecian Corner for 15 decades. “People have acquired present cards. Some of our regulars occur get meals to go two or a few occasions a week just to help us out.”

To thank these buyers, Angelo Ballas experienced hoped to toss a occasion this thirty day period, environment up tents in the parking ton and cooking up a feast. Rather, he’s coping with a pandemic, federal government limits and a nervous eating public.

Grecian Corner has not shut at all throughout the pandemic, but it did shut the eating area from mid-March to Aug. 31 — prolonged just after he was allowed to reopen. “I waited, due to the fact I needed to see what was the safest and ideal point to do. There was a ton we didn’t know early on, so I didn’t sense at ease opening the dining room,” Ballas explained.

A person of the to start with points Ballas did was set Plexiglas across the front counter to separate prospects and workers.

When he reopened the dining home, he established a separate entrance for takeout and dining-in customers to stay away from bottlenecks. The restaurant is continue to cozy, though, so with COVID-19 social distancing, it has only six or seven tables obtainable.

But takeout generally has been a massive component of Grecian Corner’s small business. “Traditionally, we had been 35% takeout. So for us heading from 35% to 100% takeout was not really hard when the eating home was closed. Our menu lends by itself it remaining takeout-helpful. We just ramped it up.”

Now, even with the dining area open up, takeout is about 75% of company.

Just one of the essential elements of Grecian Corner’s takeout enterprise has always been the health care middle. “The medical center has been a wonderful neighbor,” Ballas claimed. He stated he also attracts a great deal of buyers from the Ardmore neighborhood on 1 aspect and Buena Vista on the other.

Still, like most dining establishments, Grecian Corner is owning a tough calendar year. “Catering (or lack of it) has had the greatest influence,” Ballas said. “Because I’m a modest cafe, catering was like filling all those excess seats we did not have. There is revenue in catering, because you don’t have as substantially overhead, but I lost all that this spring — catering for pharmaceutical reps, for Wake Forest athletics.”

He explained he has managed to maintain his workers at about 15 people, although they could get fewer hours these days.

“Business has dropped, but I have experimented with to maintain as a lot of persons as I can,” he reported. “We received a PPP (Paycheck Defense Application financial loan), which was a lifesaver for about three months. At this place, we’re just attempting to look at charges, view food items costs, preserve inventory levels suitable — just tightening our belt a small little bit.”

Like other restaurateurs, he hopes that this kind of steps will be enough to keep him heading a few far more months, right up until the pandemic begins to fade.

“We’re just seeking to maintain on and get again to usual, or whatever ordinary is likely to be,” Ballas said.

But he’s not complaining. He has a wonderful staff members. He has loyal prospects. And he has 50 several years beneath his belt.

“Consistency would be the largest issue,” he said in explaining the restaurant’s accomplishment. “Not just the foodstuff, but the people – getting excellent workers is big. And we have been fortuitous this year that the menu lends itself to takeout.”

Even now he doesn’t get anything at all for granted. “We’ve been close to for 50 yrs. But in this enterprise you have to maintain on your toes.”