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You like-a-the juice? Hub’s dishes it out in Skokie

 

BY NATALIE HAYES | Contributor

April 25, 2013 6:40PM

SKOKIE Thursday Apr 18 2013 Hub’s Gyros owner Tony Thanoukos and his son Billy stand inside of the restaurant eating area at their Skokie location.| Michelle LaVigne~Sun-Times Media

Hub’s Restaurant

3727 Dempster St., Skokie

847-677-7695

To see the first Saturday Night Live skit, go to http://www.nbc.com/saturday-night-live/video/hubs-gyros/n10418


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Poking fun at Greek stereotypes, “You like-a-the juice, eh?” was the line made famous by a classic two-part Saturday Night Live skit from the early 1990s.

But many people don’t know the star-studded skit was inspired by Hub’s Restaurant, a Greek-American eatery that’s been a Skokie landmark for almost 40 years.

The two skits embody the vibe and feel of Hub’s as a classic casual Greek joint, and poke fun at traditional stereotypes of the happy-go-lucky, loud Greek man with a heavy accent and a thick moustache.

Hub’s has three separately-owned locations today in Skokie and Chicago, but was originally established in the 1960s before being purchased by brothers Tony and John Thanoukos in 1976, shortly after they immigrated to the U.S. from Greece.

Five years later, the brothers opened a second location, Hub’s II, on the 5500 block of Lincoln Avenue in Chicago, and expanded again in 1985 with Hub’s III on the 5800 block of Irving Park Road.

In 1997, the brothers decided to split off on their own and each run their own restaurant, so Tony took over the Skokie location and John ran the Lincoln Avenue Hub’s. The third location was later sold to a new owner, who renamed that restaurant “Bub’s.”

The set of the Hub’s skit was modeled after the third location, according to Tony’s daughter Victoria Thanoukos.

The first of the two classic 1993 SNL skits plays features the employees — played by Rob Schneider, Chris Farley, Adam Sandler and Robert Smigel — harassing customer Jason Alexander with the same question, “You like-a-the juice, eh?” while he’s trying to enjoy lunch with a friend played by Mike Myers.

In the second skit that aired the same year, Hub’s restaurant employees travel to Mount Olympus in Greece to get more of “the juice” to satisfy their customers.

SNL shares a special connection with Chicago, because many of the show’s stars come from the famous comedy training and improve company, “The Second City.”

Hub’s was first discovered by an NBC producer who was tipped off about the restaurant’s unique character by a business affiliate of Hub’s.

“He said, ‘you’ve got to come out here and see this place — you would get a kick out of it,’ but a lot of the SNL guys already knew of us because a lot of them came from Chicago,” Victoria Thanoukos said.

With light eyes and formerly gray hair, Tony Thanoukos, the soft-spoken, friendly owner of Hub’s Skokie, doesn’t resemble the in-your-face worker played by Rob Schneider in the skit, but Victoria said her uncle John Thanoukos fits the stereotypical Greek look more.

“People don’t even think my dad is Greek, but my uncle has the dark hair and the dark eyes, and I think he used to wear the gold chain,” Victoria Thanoukos said.

Behind the funny SNL skits is the story of a hard-working Greek-American family who fought hard to earn the American dream as young immigrants back in the 1970s.

Tony and John Thanoukos were in their 20s when they bought the first Hub’s location. The brothers worked around-the-clock to make it a success, and today Tony is still found in the shop during all business hours, working alongside his 20 employees, which include his 28-year-old son Billy.

Hub’s is a truly family-run business, and the three Thanoukos children learned a strong work ethic early on because they started helping out their dad every day at Hub’s when they turned 12.

Tony Thanoukos puts his heart and soul into his restaurant, from the food made from handcrafted family recipes to the spring blossoms he plants in the springtime for guests who dine on the outdoor patio to enjoy.

Hub’s has won the Skokie Beautification Award for three years running since 2010, and last week was named as one of the top 10 restaurants in Skokie by Yelp.com, a business review web site.

“After all these years, he’s still working about 100 hours per week,” Victoria Thanoukos said. “We joke that he’s married to the business and just having an affair with our mom.”

(2009)

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Mystic Maggie

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