A Main Street mainstay is saying goodbye.
Mike Fountoukis, of Gus’s Family Restaurant, has announced that his family’s tradition of feeding Picton’s families is coming to an end as of 3 September.
Having worked at his father’s, side since he was fifteen, Mike took over when Gus died unexpectedly in 2017. “My father worked 364 days a year,” said Mr. Fountoukis. “There was one time he had an accident and broke both legs. And he still came to work!”
Gus Fountoukis was born in Greece and emigrated to Montreal when he was sixteen. A cousin ran the Riviera Restaurant in the County and offered him a job. He worked at Mike’s Diner on Hwy. 49 for a while, and then, in 1984, he opened the Burger Palace at Talbot and Main. After a fire closed them down, Gus’s Family Restaurant rose from the ashes on Main St., at first where the Vic is now, before moving to their final location across the street.
Gus’s is truly a “family restaurant.” Many regular customers have been meeting there for breakfast for decades.
The news was greeted with an outpouring of fond memories and favourite menu items on community social media pages.
Patricia McConnell wrote, “Thanks for the awesome meals. My aunt Leola would be sad to hear this as well. If she was still with us she would have one last pork chop meal, as that was her favorite, and a coconut cream pie.”
Ms. McConnell added her own list of favorites: the club house or hot beef sandwiches and the “famous beef barley soup.”
For former Gazette editor Adam Bramburger, “Gus’s was always one of our favourites in Picton. Good food, great portions, and very affordable. We’ll miss it, but congrats to the family on the legacy and the next step. We’ll have to get back in for that lasagna once more.”
Other patrons recall children’s birthday parties or large family gatherings. As one visitor put it, “I remember going to Gus’s so clearly because it was such a comfortingly normal place.”
Mike Fountoukis took after his father, and kept the restaurant open seven days a week until very recently. “I loved it! The high pace and the community, knowing your locals and regulars.”
“None of this would have been possible without the loyal customers and the amazing staff we’ve had. I can’t thank the community enough for supporting us for forty years.”
Having weathered the pandemic, and his own health challenges, a growing family and his mother’s approaching retirement brought some reflection. “A restaurant is a lot of work. Some of my friends work at their own pace; I work at the customers’ pace.”
The restaurant started taking Mondays off, and Mr. Fountoukis realized he was missing some of the simplest pleasures — “like actually eating dinner with my kids.”
He is planning some well-deserved rest and recuperation. Will he be back? “Maybe,” he said, “but as of right now I’m taking some time to ponder. I got a taste of being a father. It was an eye opener!”
As I spoke to Mr. Fountoukis on the phone, he was also attending to his audibly active two-year-old twins. He may not be leaving “the high pace and the community” behind after all.