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Seattle Celebrates Century-Long Greek Culinary Presence

Inside Seattle's Lotus Cafe, ca. 1950.  Photo courtesy of MOHAI (Shawn Carkonen).
Inside Seattle’s Lotus Cafe, ca. 1950.
Photo courtesy of MOHAI (Shawn Carkonen)

Greek immigrants began to permanently settle in the American continent approximately at the end of the 19th century, with the majority choosing to live in large urban centers such as New York and Chicago. However, some of them preferred to live in smaller cities reaching as far as Washington State. They found their way in various forms of employment, working in coal mines and cotton mills, while others succeeded as shop owners, street vendors and restaurateurs.

The Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI) in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood, in collaboration with the Greek-American Historical Museum of Washington State, also known as “Greeks in Washington,” is featuring “A Place at the Table,” an exhibition running through May 31 that traces Greek-American restaurateurs’ continuous presence, culture, and entrepreneurial spirit in Washington for over a century.

Greek restaurateurs, known for their strong work ethic and traditional Greek culinary background, were more than eager to enter the American food chain during their first steps. While skillfully assimilating to the classic American food industry, they later introduced the authentic tasty delights of their homeland to Pacific Northwesterners. As a result today, one can find over 200 Greek-owned restaurants in the Puget Sound region alone, some of them dating back to the early 1900s. These “beacons” of Greek-American food history could not have endured the test of time if it wasn’t for their strong sense of Greek tradition such as hospitality and lasting connections with their patrons.

During the exhibition, visitors will have the opportunity to admire a great variety of video interviews, photos and memorabilia, while obtaining useful information about businesses that were serving the restaurants. The “Food and the Church” section is there to highlight all special bonds created between culture and religion, dating back to the early immigration period.

Greek Business in Seattle. Early 1900s. Courtesy Vasilia Papadakis
Greek Business in Seattle. Early 1900s. Courtesy Vasilia Papadakis

A Place at the Table
Over 100 Years of Greek Restaurants, Culture and Entrepreneurial Spirit
Through May 31, 2015
Museum of History & Industry (MOHAI)
860 Terry Avenue N, Seattle, WA 98109 (map)
Hours: From 10 am to 5 pm, and 10 am to 8 pm on Thursdays
Purchase tickets here
Phone: (206) 324-1126

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