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Posted on Wed, Mar 14, 2012 : 5:59 a.m.

Parthenon Restaurant in downtown Ann Arbor to close March 31 following sale

By Lizzy Alfs


Parthenon owners and brothers John and Steve Gavas plan to close their 37-year-old restaurant on March 31.

Melanie Maxwell |

For John and Steve Gavas, owners of downtown Ann Arbor’s Parthenon Restaurant, March 31 marks the end of an era.

That’s the day the brothers plan to retire and close the 37-year-old Greek restaurant on the corner of East Liberty Street and South Main Street.

But the restaurant -- which is located on one of the most visible corners of downtown -- won’t sit empty for long.

The owners of several local bars purchased the business in January and plan to open a new Cafe Habana concept in the 8,000-square-foot, bi-level space this summer. Cafe Habana closed its former location on East Washington Street on Jan. 8 in preparation for the move.


Cafe Habana will reopen sometime this summer on the corner of East Liberty Street and South Main Street.

Up next for the Gavas brothers: retirement.

“It’s been 37 years,” Steve said. “I think that’s enough and now I have to enjoy life.”

John and Steve, along with their other brother and two cousins, moved to Ann Arbor from Chicago to open the Parthenon in 1975.

“We came to Ann Arbor and fell in love with it,” Steve recalled. “This was a good place to open a Greek restaurant.”

He added: “Nobody ever knew about gyros here. We were the first ones to make a gyro and people loved it. It was a big success.”

Steve thanked his “very loyal customers” and all the people who patronized the business throughout the years. He nodded to the many generations of customers that passed through the restaurant and the thousands of people he’s met.

“We really enjoyed working and seeing people,” he said. “We’ve been here for most of our lives, and we enjoyed it while we were doing it and seeing the same faces come over and over again.”

After the Parthenon closes on March 31, there will be an auction at the restaurant for the remaining inventory and furniture on April 4.

And as the space transitions into Cafe Habana in the coming months, Steve said he believes the owners will find success at the prominent downtown intersection.

“I think they’ll be successful,” he said. “I think they are going to make a nice place here. This is a good corner.”

Cafe Habana owners Greg Lobdell and Jon Carlson, along with operating partner Dan Glazer and other investors, recently expanded Blue Tractor into the neighboring Cafe Habana space on East Washington Street.

The new Cafe Habana on Main Street is going to be entirely different, although Lobdell and Carlson have yet to reveal the details about the new concept. They said the restaurant will reopen this summer following extensive renovations.

The Parthenon space -- which was marketed as a bi-level restaurant and club -- has 4,000 square feet on the first floor, with a 4,000-square-foot unfinished basement.

In the meantime, the Cafe Habana Cellar Lounge remains open on East Washington Street beneath Blue Tractor, and that concept will change when Cafe Habana reopens.

Lizzy Alfs is a business reporter for Reach her at 734-623-2584 or email her at Follow her on Twitter at



Thu, Mar 15, 2012 : 1:57 p.m.

This is a real bad thing to hear. Best gyros in Ann Arbor. Unfortunately there's too much competition and somehow this business has come to an end. Maybe people in town just don't know good food.


Wed, Mar 14, 2012 : 9:05 p.m.

Nice gyro's --- always made two meals of yours -not short on meat like a lot of gyro's these days. I'll have to stop in and order one last meal before you close.

Phil Dokas

Wed, Mar 14, 2012 : 6:31 p.m.

Opa! Thanks for all the great times and gyros Steve, and John, and the rest of the Parthenon family! The Parthenon will be very missed for a long time.

John B

Wed, Mar 14, 2012 : 6:22 p.m.

You will be missed more than I can say. I cannot believe it's been 37 years I have been enjoying your food. I have had gryos all over the country but none compare to yours. It's the first time I ever heard Opa! said without drinking a shot of Ouzo (I love that cheese) and your calamari was always delicious. Have a long and relaxing retirement. I will always remember the Parthenon as one of only a few all time favorite restaurants.


Wed, Mar 14, 2012 : 6:13 p.m.

What I find funny is after going to the Parthenon for 37 years I've never noticed John and Steve age one bit. They look the same as I remember them as a kid.


Wed, Mar 14, 2012 : 6:02 p.m.

Best of Luck to John and Steve. My family and I have been customers from day 1. My oldest son has been going there for 37 years. Their Pastitsio was and still is, one of his most favorite foods! My second oldest son worked there when he was at PiHi. He is a Army Special Forces member now and always wants to go to the Parthenon when he visits. So many good memories.


Wed, Mar 14, 2012 : 4:47 p.m.

Another "old-timer" from the 1970s, when I was a student saying sorry to see it go. At least another franhcise establishment is not going to open on that spot. I still miss the Pretzel Bell.


Wed, Mar 14, 2012 : 4:27 p.m.

Even though I'm in my 30s, my first Parthenon experience was this year. What a bummer. Would love to know if they have plans for a cookbook so their recipes live on after the restaurant closes.


Wed, Mar 14, 2012 : 4:10 p.m.

I really hope that they have some copies of their recipes or put them out for people to buy, there a number of them I would want!


Wed, Mar 14, 2012 : 3:53 p.m.

They have the best gyros. Their custard desert (Galaktoboureko) is really good and you cannot get it anywhere else that I know of -- at least in this town! We will miss the restaurant very much. I wish the owners a happy retirement. They deserve it.


Wed, Mar 14, 2012 : 2:53 p.m.

it is too bad to see these guys leave.


Wed, Mar 14, 2012 : 1:47 p.m.

Hope you guys have a great retirement you served our community well. I'll miss your food.


Wed, Mar 14, 2012 : 1:24 p.m.

Here's to John and Steve! For always, ALWAYS, being on hand for 37 years. For great memories. I will never forget the high-reaching flames of the OPA! -- or feeling the heat on my face from tables away. My family had many, many wonderful meals there. The Parthenon was a straight-forward, no gimmick, family owned Greek eatery. I welcome change, and look forward to new things, but I will miss this rock-solid, welcoming place downtown. I wonder how long pastitsio will keep in the freezer?


Wed, Mar 14, 2012 : 2:32 p.m.

Maybe you might want to get their phone number. If they are bored? They might just make you some.


Wed, Mar 14, 2012 : 12:58 p.m.

Been going there since I was in college. Sad to see an local landmark going away. I doubt that the new place will have this staying power, but I do wish them luck as well. The good news is that 30 years ago, there were not a lot of places to get a decent Gyro. Now, Ahmo's (the old Big Market) is close, has parking and serves up a great Gryo, as well as many other places. I still will miss this "old school" place. Best of luck in retirement. You deserve it. Enjoy.


Wed, Mar 14, 2012 : 12:19 p.m.

I remember when it opened. I believe it opened after Cunningham's Drug Store closed. Cunningham's had a wonderful mint green tile exterior. The Parthenon was indeed the first place where I had a gyros and learned how to pronounce the name correctly. Everyone went there. Ann Arbor has changed a lot since those days and I am really glad that a CVS or a Rite Aid isn't going into that space.


Wed, Mar 14, 2012 : 2:31 p.m.

Now that was the place I think to get a soda before they shut that down. We moved to Ann Arbor one year after they opened. Was my fathers favorite place. He is gone now and now? So will the Parthenon. Wow. Truly is an end of an era. I too remember Goodyear, Kresege and yes, Cunninghams. Good luck to retirement.


Wed, Mar 14, 2012 : 11:52 a.m.

This is so sad. We eat there quite a bit. We get take-put mostly because parking downtown is terrible. I find a lot of people I know would love to eat at downtown restaurants but don't because of parking. This is an issue that should be addresses. It is like going to UM for an appointment, most people hate to go because if the parking. I will miss The Parthenon.


Wed, Mar 14, 2012 : 12:58 p.m.

The lot on Ashley and Williams is ground level and 50 feet from the parthenon. It always has empty spots, except for weekend nights. You will pay less for two hours of parking than the tip you will pay on two $12 Gyro plates.


Wed, Mar 14, 2012 : 12:45 p.m.

Most people that hate the parking hate it because they actually have to *gasp* walk! There is parking all over A2. No, it's not like pulling into Target, or Khols, or Walmart parking lot, where you park and then only have to be outside for all of 20 seconds. You actually have to walk a bit, just like in the big city!

Wolf's Bane

Wed, Mar 14, 2012 : 11:47 a.m.

Can't wait for Cafe Habana version 2.0!