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Oral Histories

The SFA oral history program documents life stories from the American South. Collecting these stories, we honor the people whose labor defines the region.

ORAL HISTORY

Betty and Pete Hontzas


Gus Hontzas came to the states from Greece and landed in Jackson, Mississippi, where his uncle, John Hontzas, had a restaurant called John’s. When the Hontzas family opened up the Niki’s restaurants in Birmingham (Niki’s Downtown opened in 1951 and Niki’s West opened in 1957), Gus headed to the Magic City to run Niki’s West. Gus passed away in 2001, but his sons, Pete and Teddy, run the place today. The cafeteria line at Niki’s West is legendary. Mid-morning you can find folks in line, piling their plates high with some of the freshest and most colorful vegetables in Birmingham. And if the cafeteria line isn’t your style, they also have an a la carte menu where you’ll find even more fresh seafood, steaks and a few traditional Greek dishes. Most folks who pass in front of the steam table at Niki’s West might be surprised to know that there was a lounge in the back of the place in the old days. And evidently, the lounge (and yes, Mrs. Hontzas confirmed it, there was a go-go dancer involved) was where part of the expanded kitchen is today. If those walls could talk!

Date of interview:
2004-03-09 00:00

Interviewer:
Amy Evans

Photographer:
Amy Evans

Download Transcript Download Transcript 2

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