Montreal was dismayed when news broke earlier this summer that pioneering Portuguese chicken restaurant Romados had closed for good. But it turns out Romados should reopen after all — under new ownership.
Husband and wife team George Karaglanis and Vicki Eliopoulos are steering the revival, and plan to reanimate the charcoal grills nestled at the back of 115 Rachel East as early as the beginning of September. Many of the restaurant’s former employees will also be returning, and, crucially for Romados devotees, so will its signature piri piri-slathered bird, Karaglanis promises. “Nothing is going to change. Everything is staying the same,” he said.
Taking over a family-run business (a Montreal institution, no less) that’s garnered legions of loyal patrons and decades of success — and withstood its share of hurdles, including a damaging fire and some health code violations — will be an invariably tall order, but Karaglanis brings some especially pertinent experience: He was the manager of Romados for three years, up until its last day of operation in December 2020.
“And I used to come here even before that, as a customer myself. I love Portuguese chicken, and I’ve always said Romados does it best. The best chicken, the best piri-piri sauce, and let’s not forget their famous pastéis de nata [Portuguese custard tarts],” Karaglanis says. (The restaurant’s pastry chef will also be reprising his role, he notes, with excitement.)
Karaglanis cut his teeth in Montreal restaurants since the age of 14, including at his father’s restaurant, Gerry’s Delicatessen in Hochelga-Maisonneuve (now owned by his brother), and now-closed Mont-Royal Avenue burger joint Mange-Moi, which he opened. Meanwhile, Eliopoulos holds a master’s degree in molecular biology, and previously owned a Copper Branch franchise on Park Avenue.
Romados’ previous owner, Manny Machado, had shared the news of the restaurant’s closure in a Facebook comment under a post on the restaurant’s page on June 11, following what was already a six-month hiatus for the establishment. “Romados is permanently closed. It was our honour to serve you for over 2 decades. This decision was imposed upon the business and not by choice,” the comment reads. Machado, who is the son of restaurant’s founder, later confirmed as much to Eater, saying the restaurant found itself entangled in litigation and that the family was “utterly heartbroken” by the ordeal.
Reached for comment about the Romados reopening, Machado confirmed to Eater that his family is unaffiliated with the project, and expressed some skepticism about the new venture. “If none of my family is involved, is it really Romados?” he says.
Asked about the situation and taking over the reins from the Machados, all Karaglanis and Eliopoulos would say is that they have “nothing but the deepest respect” for the family and the institution they built in their 27 years at its helm. Their hope is to keep the tradition alive — “not to try and reinvent the wheel,” Eliopoulos says.
Though the couple promises little will change at the local haunt and frequent tourist destination, they do envision a wider reach for the iconic Montreal brand, including a line of grocery items and perhaps, one day, a couple additional rotisserie outposts in other markets — “so that it isn’t just in the province of Quebec,” Karaglanis says. “There will only be the one Romados in Quebec,” Eliopoulos specifies.
Expansionary aspirations come second though; right now, the couple is occupied with some renovations and a clean-up at the restaurant’s home base on the corner of Rachel and De Bullion, ahead of its fast-approaching September re-opening. Whatever happens, Karaglanis is emphatic about one thing: “This will always be the mother. That’s for sure.”
Romados is slated to reopen at 115 Rachel East in early September.
- Montreal Portuguese Chicken Icon Romados Closes After 27 Years [EMTL]
- How Montreal Got Its Taste for Portuguese Chicken [EMTL]
Update: August 24, 2021, 2:30 p.m.: This post has been updated to include a comment from former Romados owner Manny Machado.
Update: August 24, 2021, 8:30 p.m.: This post has been updated to include information regarding Vicki Eliopoulos’ professional background, and a clarification about the couple’s expansion plans.