CHAMPAIGN — Zorba's Restaurant owner Matt Mortenson said he expects to reopen for business sometime today (Thursday, April 12).
The popular Campustown restaurant, best known for its gyro sandwiches and live jazz, had to shut down after suffering water damage in a March 23, 2011, fire that also heavily damaged Mia Za's restaurant and Pitaya clothing store. Mia Za's reopened in February.
But after salvage and renovation, the eatery at 627 E. Green St., C, is on the verge of welcoming customers again.
On Wednesday, Mortenson said he got things in order, doing food preparation and figuring how best to operate within the restaurant's new configuration.
"The store is very different because we had to relocate our kitchen," he said in an email to The News-Gazette.
"We came up with the best solution, trying to maximize seating and efficiency," he said. The restaurant now seats about 14 fewer than it previously did.
Describing the new setup last month, Mortenson said the kitchen area would be bigger, as would the bathrooms. As for food, he said Zorba's would have largely the same menu.
The restaurant's murals have been restored, and photos and memorabilia have been preserved in the restaurant's table tops.
Zorba's first opened in 1973. Mortenson went to work there in 1982, and he and his wife, Dyanna, bought the business in 1997.
Mortenson spent much of the past year working with building owner Jeff Wampler and the Gorski Reifsteck architectural firm on the redesign.
He said customers repeatedly checked in with him after the fire to see how he and his family were doing.
"It's been a very hectic pace the last three weeks as things have really come together quickly," he said.