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International Restaurant, Greektown
The Crossroad

 


Pictures of the International party
07/09/06 Camera #1


Pictures of the International party
07/09/06 Camera #2


Click for pictures of the International party, 07/09/06

 

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Click for pictures of the International

Click for larger picture
"The Five Perfect Solids visit the International" 1983, Was painted as a dedication to the International, as the artists personal tribute to what he considers to be the the finest restaurant in time and space, so perfect was the ambiance, that Plato's creations would occasionally be seen to hover about the restaurant. (See if you can spot them.) Also, you can click on the invite lying on the table next to Stephen Goodfellow on your right hand side. That would be Jim Mamalakis taking your order.
 

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"A meal at the International" 1982 Stephen Goodfellow Acrylic Micropoint 5 x 4 ft on canvas. The guy behind the counter is Gus.
 

 

 Rememberences:

Monroe St. Circa 1980

For twenty-five years the International Restaurant in
Greektown was an important cross road for Detroit's
Creative community and others: Artists, Writers,
Photographers, Poets, Dancers,  Actors, Architects,
Critics, Museum Curators, Policemen, Lawyers, Judges,
native Greeks and Stella....even a few crooks. All
experienced the International:  Everyone who was
someone has eaten at the International.

Owned and operated by Kostas Renieris (GUS) and his
partner/cook Stelios Mamalakis (STEVE), The
International was the REAL Greek Restaurant in Greek
town. The special feature of the International was
it's authentic Greek food which was ironic because
both Gus and Stelios were from Crete (KPHTH in Greek)
Therefore all the food was light and fresher than the
much heavier style of the mainland Greeks. The Greek
born customers understood this perfectly and the
non-Greek (American) customers simply liked the way
the food tasted.  Suburban /Tourists were a RARE sight
at the International since it's interior was a
transplanted Greek Taverna .....Simple , spare in
decoration. The restaurant was brightly lighted with
industrial fluorescent lights. Certainly one would say
that the International was NOT a typical romantic
place to eat. Yet those who ate and hung out there
were "romantic"  idealists, social activists, and
generally left wing.  In many ways this was encouraged
by Gus who is  very well read, self educated, and a
politically progressive individual. I am certain that
there are many good-spirit stories that "center" on
the International. 

I personally have a great interest in the
International since Gus Renieris is my Combaros ( Best
Man at my wedding) and I have direct,  almost daily,
contact with Gus.  I also have access to photos and
articles about the International (Especially it's
closing on June 23rd, 1986)  If you were at the
International on the night it closed then I probably
have a photo(s) of you with your party of friends. In
addition I have maintained a close friendship with Jim
Mamalakis ( Week-end waiter and son  of Stelios
Mamalakis).Jim has other photos and has the insider's
point of view of the restaurant and the customers.

 The twentieth anniversary of the closing is next year
2006 yet, many of us STILL recall our International
experiences as if it were yesterday. If anyone wishes
to recount their memories of the International, Please
post
these recollections on this site.  I will point
out that the life span of the International,located on
Monroe St, covers the last of 1950s "Beat" period, The
"Hippie"/social unrest of the 1960s. The Detroit Rock
and Roll/ Cass Corridor period of the 1970s and the
decline of Greektown and downtown Detroit in 1980's.
There is a wealth of social-artistic-creative history
in and about the International. Many people and
related events intersected here in this simple Greek
Taverna.

John Slick  January 2005

Frequently asked questions and answers:

Gus is ALIVE, WELL and very active.
Stelios and his wife Athena are well.
Jim Mamalakis is a UAW activist at Ford.

 John Slick
johncolburnslick@yahoo.com

Jimmy Mamalakis
dnmjim@aol.com



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 decor 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


After the fire that closed The New Miami and my layoff from Chevrolet Gear and Axle in 1980, I was hired by Higgins Properties to license and set up a bar in the old Women's City Club on Park and Elizabeth. This became the first of three locations of Clutch Cargo's which opened on New Years Eve 1980/81. During my one year running the bar that hosted The Dead Kennedy's, The Cramps, The Damned, Fear, Flipper,etc, I succumbed to the bad and very unhealthy habits of the time and milieu.
When I decided that feeling bad nearly all the time was not a good thing and started to plan my exit from Detroit, I also decided to clean up my act. So I stopped using all the bad substances and part of my turnaround included replacing all the trash food with good, nutritious meals.
For the last few months that I was in Detroit I got straight and healthy in large part by eating at the International often. I think that the lemon drop soup helped ensure that I would live to a ripe age. It was always my favorite place in Greektown but in 1982 their delicious healthy food, homey atmosphere and low prices sustained me.
During this period I went there several times a week. After I moved to Chicago I only went there one more time and it was very memorable because I ran into an estranged friend who came over to my table and with a few words made everything good between us. The International was that kind of place and I will always have a warm place in my heart for it.

Michael Roper 00/07/06
 


More rememberences to be found here...

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