|Posted on Tuesday, January 11, 2005 - 12:50 am: |
Reading John Slick's delightful and informative introduction to the International had me harkening back to halcyon days of good bonhomie and great food. Many a time I would arrive at the International with too few coins in my pocket, and Gus would never see me go hungry.
What an atmosphere! Few are the times I walked into that welcoming aromatic space without seeing someone I knew. At this crossroads I met and befriended many people; I was continually enthralled by the stimulating conversation that always flowed freely within this establishment.
Food-wise, I particularly enjoyed the half a sheep's head, one eyeball glowering up at the customer, accusingly daring the gastronome, "Go ahead - make my day!" If you could overcome your squeamishness, those eyes were pretty tasty.
The beets and garlic were next to none, and to this day I snort derisively when I sample the lack-luster attempts at that dish when dining at other Greek Town restaurants.
I painted a picture of the International as a salute to it's existence and the wonderful people who lovingly ran that establishment day in and day out.
I wonder if the owners ever knew what a huge influence they had upon the art culture of Detroit.
Thank you Steve! Thank you Gus! You guys made life sweet.
|Posted on Wednesday, January 12, 2005 - 2:56 pm: |
I remember being introduced to the International by Bob Sestok in the mid eighties. The lamb and greenbeans along with Retsina (sp?) wine was the best supper in town. It was great to stop in and see Zubel and Deana when they lived down the block. Thanks Bob!
|Posted on Thursday, January 13, 2005 - 4:22 pm: |
Colin Fraser, my friend, first took me to the
International on a Saturday afternoon in the early
70's. I had been taken to Greektown before then but,
had always been shown and invited to the "tourist
restaurants". I was not impressed with Greek Food as a
result of eating in the tourist restaurants..their
food left a bad taste in my mouth. Colin assured me
"try it you will like it"; so we went to the
International .That afternoon the restaurant was
half-filled with a bunch of old (really old) Greek
men. They sat in the back two booths and tables by the
ladies room. The old guys were muzz-muzzing, and
waving their arms around as they spoke and yelled at
each other.Yes! They were yelling at each other!
I grew-up in Albion, Michigan which is home to Albion
College. This little college town is about as ethnic
as Wonderbread(TM). If you asked any one in Albion
about being Greek; they thought you were talking about
college fraternity boys. Subsequently I had never seen
anything like the old Greeks yelling at one another.
I kept watching these old guys. Some had canes. One
old man cupped his ear to listen to the yelling.
Others wore old style spectacles with lenses as thick
as the bottoms of Pepsi Cola bottles. I tried to use
my small town logic to explain what I was seeing. I
decided that these old guys were long time
acquaintances who collectively were either lame, deaf,
half bind or palsied. Most seemed to score on three
out of four ailments I figured they had Saturday
afternoon passes from the old folks home. That's how
it worked in Albion..the old folks were let out to
walk on Saturday afternoons.
Suddenly without any apparent reason all these old
guys JUMPED UP and really started to put up one BIG
stink and went out the front door as fast as they
could....they were not quick footed but they were
determined to leave. They made LOTS of noise and one
hell of a fuss!
I have to admit that I was too preoccupied with the
old Greeks to notice the waiter who was ,in all
probability , Gus. Nor did I notice the lanky teen
aged Greek kid (Jim Mamalakis) who was slugging
quarters in the juke box and playing Greek music.
Colin asked Gus what was with the old guys and Gus
simply said, "Oh, just politics.....those old geezers
always talk Greek politics" Gus punctuated this with a
laugh. I turned around in the booth, looked out the
window and saw that the old coots were now standing on
the sidewalk and they were still yelling and waving
their hands around. The guy with the cane was pointing
it at the front door and squawking like an old
rooster. "KaKaKee KaKaKee" Gus just looked out and
said "Those old guys!" shook his head, laughed and
when back to cutting fresh bread.
Colin and I spent about two more hours talking about
the "stuff of life". We ate lunch, drank a split or
two of retsina and lots of coffee.
Jim Mamalakis told me years later what had really
happened that day. All the old Greeks had come to
America in the early 20's when there was a King of
Greece. They, "The Royalists", were still loyal to the
King. However the Kings of Greece were all deposed by
1967 yet, the old right wing Royalists still cursed
and lamented the demise of the King, Queen and
variety of Princes and/or Princesses. That's what they
were yelling about at the tables.
Well ,Gus finally had enough of the old right-wingers
and their bullshit. He told Jimmy to play "the"
music...Jimmy plugged a few quarters in the juke box
and lo and behold Mikis Theodorakis music came out.
Theodorakis is famous for the Zorba theme and is more
famous as one of the LEFTIST black-listed
artist/composers in modern Greece. When the old guys
hear the music they went crazy and ran out of the
restaurant. Then they had the gall to stand on Monroe
Street and shout curses and epitaphs at Gus.
The old roosters were calling and shouting out "Ka Ka
Eee!" "Ka Ka Eee!" K K E are the initials of the
Communist Party in Greece. So the old coots accused
Gus of being a communist for playing Theodorakis on
the juke box. Therefore Gus was their avowed enemy!
But the very next day all the old birds came back and
roosted in the back booths and tables by the ladies
restroom. The food was so good that it transgressed
even the most extreme Greek politics. Now that is
To this day when I encounter a new ethnic restaurant I
peer in the window to see if there are any old ethnics
eating there....if the place is filled with tourists.
I won't even step in the door....but if there are a
few tables filled with old ethnics...then "I'll try it
and probably like it", as Colin would say.
This song was one of the Greek songs in the
International Restaurant's Juke Box translated into
" In This Neighbourhood"
Lyrics: M. Eleftheriou
Music: M. Theodorakis
In this neighbourhood
night and morning
we spend and lose an entire life.
In this neighbourhood
in the narrow streets
we were lost and lived far from God.
In this neighbourhood
in this neighbourhood
we had yearnings
and they betrayed us for a mouthful of
|Posted on Thursday, January 13, 2005 - 6:19 pm: |
We used to go in and get a combo "veggie plate" with all of the delicious stewed veggies of the day + rice pilaf. It was super cheap (like $2 or so) and a real pigout. I really miss that place.
|Posted on Saturday, January 15, 2005 - 6:37 pm: |
Which side of the street was the International on..north or south? Was it a large or smaller place??
|Posted on Saturday, January 15, 2005 - 9:18 pm: |
The International had the best broiled lamb chops in town!
I used to go there with my friend Julia Greenblatt....she introduced me to the multicolored Greek cigarettes [really strong, but tasty], and the lambchops. Julia is exactly 10 years younger than me[she was born July 29,1964, I was born July 29, 1954] but was much more worldly.
I miss those days.
|Posted on Sunday, February 27, 2005 - 2:11 am: |
I can't remember when I first ate at the International but I'm sure that my father took me there when I was a kid. In the old days there were Rembetica (Greek Blues) tunes on the jukebox that were his favorites. I grew up eating Cretan food as my mother was Cretan and the menu there was a home away form home. Bill Hodgson and I ate there often and would usually sit in the front booth by the window.
My uncle visiting from New York once had me drive him downtown from Novi to eat there in one of Detroit's worst blizzards. There was nothing I could say to dissuade him. We risked death to eat at the International.
I have a matchbook around here somewhere from the International and when I find it post it.
|Posted on Tuesday, March 01, 2005 - 4:50 pm: |
It was on the north side of the street, near the center of the block. It was a very small place.
|Posted on Wednesday, May 18, 2005 - 10:08 am: |
It might have been Stephen Goodfellow that introduced me to the International. He introduced me to a few fabulous places to eat in and around the Detroit area. Or, it might have been some of my fellow classmates at ccs. It was in the early eighties, that I remember. My favorite memories are still the many meals I shared at the International with my friend and teacher Gilda Snowden. The yougart topped with honey was the best I ever tasted. When I returned from living in Israel for a few years the International was gone. Glida, we laughed so much together in those days.
|Posted on Wednesday, June 15, 2005 - 5:10 pm: |
Joanie Mitchel got just right - don't it always seem to go you don't know what you've got till its gone. Well thats the international. I am convinced that I will never know a resturant that approaches this place. And how we all took it for granted.
|Posted on Tuesday, May 16, 2006 - 1:51 am: |
i needed to add my name as i miss and have missed the international since it closed. having been away from detroit for some 16 yrs. when ever i return and find myself downtown the memories come back and the sadness returns over the loss of the INTERNATIONAL. i was introduced to the rest. by a socialist i had met while working on the citizen parties presidental bid. i thought a third party was a good idea and hell the socialist seemed like nice enough folk lets hear what she had to say. i was going to work for the party anyway...well me and enid (one of the many soc.i would met) went to a late dinner at the INT. well we talked and ate and talked and ate the best lental soap, lamb,lemon potatoes, okra, rice pudding etc... i ever had had. being italian i was unfamiliar with the greek way, and being from the eastern sub. i did not go downtown much (i was led to believe it was kinda of unsafe)but the food was great, my company was stimulating and the staff even joined in on the conversation at times...i remeber a tallish skinny youngman who served us...i want to say his name was george...i thought long and hard about the issues we discussed while i ate and ate and there was george bringing over more food, bread and water as we ordered always with a knowing friendly smile...for the next 6 years or so i was a regular ...i brought high school buddies,friends, family, lovers, anyone i could get to come downtown just so i could show off the great food and welcoming atmosphere...it made some of the worst things about detroit so much more bearable...well that is it...
|Posted on Sunday, June 25, 2006 - 4:44 am: |
The other day, I heard an interview with Leonard Cohen on NPR. He said something that struck a deep cord while reading from one of his poems: “my reputation as a lady’s man was a joke – it caused me to laugh bitterly through the ten thousand nights I spent alone.” Well, I may have had my share of complicated relationships with women, but a “lady’s man”, I think not. However, it was the mention of “the ten thousand nights I spent alone” that hit me with a recollection of the many introspective nights I spent alone in my Greektown loft. The poem transported me back to a nostalgic moment of clarity - to my studio, surrounded by weathered post-industrial brick and timber. In the summer, there were the melancholic horns of the passing freighters on the Detroit River and in the winter, the sounds of pounding radiators. I would never tire of the several-mile vista straight down Lafayette Avenue. On a clear day, one could see the Albert Kahn Building on Jefferson that was perched at the avenue’s end. When windows were open, the familiar aromas of the Greek bakery and suvalaki would permeate my space and overpower the smell of oil paint. Those tempting aromas would lure me out my door toward Monroe Street - to the International Restaurant.
And so when hunger beckoned, or when I wanted enjoy food that was far superior to what I could prepare, or to simply break the monotony of solitude, I would begin my five-minute walk up the street and around the corner to my second home. There, I could count on seeing a familiar face or two, Gus’ warm greeting and to be entertained by George’s antics. The International Restaurant with its sparse décor of a greasy-spoon diner was a place where the sound of Greek and English would coalesce like words in a poem. It was a meeting place and safe-haven for seemingly like-minded people from attorneys to bohemians. It was, in essence, our East-Village - a place for friends, acquaintances, artists, musicians, writers, and business people to mingle. And on especially jovial late nights, Gus would pull out his bottle of ouzo from under the cash register and offer complimentary rounds to the regulars. From 1978 until its closing in 1986, the International Restaurant provided a sense of “belonging” and for that I am grateful. So whatever was going on in my early years, I could always find solace while sitting in that booth surrounded by good company and enjoying my meal of a Greek Salad, lentil soup and a half order of lamb and rice.
Mel Rosas, June 25, 2006
|Posted on Wednesday, June 28, 2006 - 10:19 am: |
Thank you Mel. I've placed your rememberence on the International Tribe page.
|Posted on Tuesday, November 27, 2007 - 11:23 pm: |
I discovered this sight trying to find a recipe for Baked Spinach & Rice that I used to have in the late '60's. Reading these posts brings back vivid memories of the great dishes - egg lemon soup, string beans and lamb, baked fish, etc. Also the old men and my regular waiter, was his name Al ? dark, swarthy, ethnic, lean 40ish.
At that time I was separated from my wife and was serially dating very attractive women. It was a great place to bring dates - cheap and reeking with soul (the IR, not the women). My waiter always give me approving looks. His eyes bulged when I introduced the last woman I showed up with as my wife! We had reconciled.
I just posted this to John Slick:
I used to eat at the International on a regular basis in 1969-70 when I was a Psychology Intern at Lafayette Clinic a few blocks away. My favorite dish was Baked Spinach & Rice served in a large mound, with great Greek bread on the side. If I really indulged myself I would order the Baked Fish also. A few years later I wrote to the restaurant from Maine, where I still reside, and obtained the Baked Spinach & Rice recipe. Sadly the recipe has vanished and I haven't been able to find anything close on the internet. It is also sad to discover that the International closed in the 80's. When I frequented the place it was truly the epitome of a "hole in the wall" especially at night - my type of place! Unpretentious and authentic.
Beyond reminiscing about 40 year old experiences ( I have a nice anecdote to share if anyone is interested) I was hoping that I would be able to get another copy of the spinach/rice recipe and if the baked fish recipe was available that would be an incredible bonus.
|Posted on Thursday, February 12, 2009 - 8:57 pm: |
I can't remember the first time I went to the International but I remember sitting at the table with so many different people. John Slick, Tina Andrecki, Marie Drolett, Ileen Goss, John Strothers, Zubel, Aris Krotrulis, Bill Bozwell, Tom Parish, Jim Lutomski, Doug Barthel, Tom Paul Fitzgerald, Phil Fike, Steve Palmer, Dan Cicceli, Katy hayes, Barb Green, Mark Loveland,Mike Finn.
Tarama, Beets and garlic sauce, yogurt and honey, lamb and endive fricasee, the best fish and calamari I ever had in my life and when I only had a couple of bucks it was braized chicken necks and wings for lunch.
Of course there was Gus. Gus used to cash checks for me any time I asked. I think he was the banker to the whole Corridor art community.
Sometimes he would cook for me when Steve was on break. Steve!!!!wow what a cook and a smile always. George was a clown and Jimmy was a tall geeky looking kid.
In 1974 I left for a couple of years, came back and rented a studio on Lafeyette and Beaubien right above the Bazuki Bar. Mel Rosas and Slick each had studios there. I later turned the front facing Beaubien Into the Sky Line Kite shop.
I ate half my meals including breakfast at the International. When I was manager of the Focus Gallery Gus used to donate wine and baklava for the openings.
But what I remember most was every Newyears Eve at almost exactly 12:00 I would find myself somehow walking into that hole in the wall. Gus would have the Mataxa 5 star out and we all would toast the new year and it was wonderful......
|Posted on Tuesday, March 10, 2009 - 12:45 pm: |
Mark Loveland was my first room mate when I went to Wayne State. We had attended Walled Lake High School together. One night, I was at the International with Steve Palmer, Jim Lutomski, and John Moore. There was a wierd looking guy sitting way in the back. He came up to me and said, "Don't trust the man in the beard". He was referring to Jim. I told Jim, and Jim turned white as a ghost. In fact, he had to leave the building. We went outside to see that his VW van had a flat. Then he told me a story of how he was on the road 'way out west (Montana, I think) and he was rear-ended by a driver. Get this - the driver of the vehicle was the guy in the restaurant. Freaky! Not to highjack the thread, but I loved Greektown when it was quaint. You could certainly eat cheap at the International.
|Posted on Monday, November 21, 2011 - 2:57 am: |
I much prfeer informative articles like this to that high brow literature.
|Posted on Saturday, February 11, 2012 - 4:57 am: |
The International was a very special place to me, too. My favorites were the avgolemono and lentil soups, the bread, salads, vegetable platters and above all the skordalia. I ate so much of it that I actually got low blood pressure. My mom used to complain that I oozed the odor of garlic. People would give me a wide berth on the bus. I was real sad when I found that it was no more. I was in there often enough that Gus always knew what I was going to eat.