Correction: This story has been modified from its original version. — Ed Devine is a junior.
Alumni from years past frequent Mike’s Grill, and it’s not rare to have a line forming outside of the restaurant on game-day weekends.
“There are even regulars who are just like family there and they would come not just for the food, but because it was a place that was legitimately friendly for the sake of being friendly,” Devine said.
Nick Varelos recounts the care his father took in making everyone feel welcome, including showing children the kitchen and handing out candy.
“People would come back in with their kids 20 years later and would show them around the kitchen, just like my dad showed them around when they were little,” Nick Varelos said.
Mike Varelos stepped back from the business in 2005, but his full presence was never lost. According to his son, even after he became semi-retired, he was still in the restaurant for at least an hour each day.
“He still worked here but was just a little bit more on the outside while we all helped out,” Nick Varelos said. “He was here just up until last Saturday, helping us out wherever he wanted to.”
At the end of the day, Mike’s legacy is more than just burgers.
“He had no intention of ever leaving this place completely. Of course, now it’s a different ball game, but it’s not like anything is going to change,” Varelos said.
The restaurant will be closed for the next two weeks to allow the family to grieve and decide how to move forward. Viewings were held on Wednesday and funeral services will be at the Greek Orthodox Church in Roanoke today.
Nick Varelos is confident that his father's death will mean little change for the restaurant in the long run, although it might mean some firsts for the family.
“You know, we might miss our first (football) game ever; he might be rather mad if we miss it. But we’ll see," Nick Varelos speculated. “It’s not just a restaurant, it’s a family restaurant ... We want to make Dad proud.”
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