Before "Restaurant Row" was coined and nighttime crowds filtered to Harrisburg, there was The Gazebo Room Restaurant.
The modest establishment sat at the corner of North Second and Locust streets and served mountainous Greek salads for two, snapper soup, wings, crab cake sandwiches and martinis.
For about 25 years, its owners George N. and Yvonne Gekas welcomed diners – a mix of politicians, city gazebo room dressing workers and families. They also operated the neighboring Locust Street Cafe.
A green awning stretched out over the sidewalk and read "House of Good Food."
"It was somewhat of an institution for a time," said midstate historian Paul Beers in a Patriot-News story in 1998. "It was sort of a hangout, it was one of the nearest bars and grills to the Capitol."
The restaurants helped to establish the family's growing Gazebo Room Salad Dressing & Marinade empire.
George first used the dressing on cold cut sub at the Ranch which he operated in Harrisburg. But it was at the Gazebo Room restaurant where diners took home empty wine and liquor bottles full of the house dressing.
Today, the Gekas' sons, Nick and Steven, sell their dad's oil and vinegar based dressing in more than 25 states under their company Best Dressed Associates in Mechanicsburg.
The Gekases closed the restaurant on New Year's Eve 1998 after Nick Cantone had expressed interest in leasing the first floor space to open an Italian restaurant.
Then Harrisburg mayor Stephen Reed presented the family with a proclamation and declared their final day in business as "George and Yvonne Gekas Locust Street Café/Gazebo Room Restaurant Day."
Eventually, the Gazebo Room space reopened as Fisaga and is now home to Arooga's Downtown.
Throwback Thursday is a weekly series taking a look back at bygone restaurants in the Harrisburg area. Jimmy Rosen, owner of The Old Sled Works in Duncannonand Kyle Weaver, co-author of "Diners of Pennsylvania" have kindly shared their expertise, old photographs and memorabilia for Throwback Thursday.
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