After kitchen fire forces closure for 16 months, popular eatery reopens
Published in the March 14 – 27, 2018 issue of Morgan Hill Life
A longhouse is a narrow, timber or stone structure that dates to Neolithic times, intended to house several generations of an extended family. You’ll find examples throughout Asia and Europe, and among the indigenous people of the Americas. In Gilroy, the Longhouse Restaurant is aptly named. Not only will you find there generations of an extended family, the Maroudases, but at any given time of day, you’ll discover a wonderful cross-section of the city’s community.
Danny Maroudas was 19 when he came to the U.S. with his uncle, Pete, who became his business partner. In 1977, they bought and took over The Longhouse, located at the corner of Monterey Road and Howson Street.
The phrases “family-owned and -operated,” “family tradition,” and “family atmosphere” are some of the first Danny Maroudas utters in his soft Greek accent as he begins to describe the business he has run for 41 years. It’s fitting that he puts the place in a familial context. He met his wife, Mary, there. She was working as a waitress when he bought the restaurant. His brother, Petros, was a fixture in the Longhouse kitchen, cooking seven days a week. His youngest daughter, Tina, fulfills management duties. Uncle Pete is still around. But there’s another kind of family here: their customers.
“We value our customers,” Danny says, “because they’re our No. 1 priority above anything else. The biggest lesson I’ve learned in 41 years is to listen and pay attention. If something’s not right, I appreciate it when a customer brings it to our attention. It’s an opportunity to improve. In the restaurant business, the customer is the one that makes you and the one that breaks you.”
Sometimes, though, what might break you is unexpected.
In March 2016, Danny’s beloved brother, Petros, lost a brief but difficult battle with cancer. Then on an early July morning, a devastating fire swept through the kitchen, nearly destroying the restaurant. Fortunately, due to the pre-dawn hour, no one was injured. The sprinkler system contained most of the damage to the kitchen. But with so much smoke and water damage, it was clear they’d need to tear things down and begin anew.
Given the sequence of events, it would’ve been easy for the Maroudases to seek an early retirement, say thanks for the memories, and walk away.
But that’s not who they are.
This is a family that cherishes tradition, hard work, and above all, service to their customers. What’s more, they had many employees who were suddenly left without a job. Rather than give up, the Maroudases chose to rebuild.
“This is all he knows,” Tina says admiringly of her father. “In some ways, the fire was a blessing in disguise, because it was an opportunity to start fresh.”
The Longhouse was closed for 16 months for renovations, but when they reopened in January 2018, regulars were pleased to see that although the décor was a little fresher, not much had changed. Tina says they still feel the presence of her uncle, Petros, whose son also works there. Everything is still made to order. They use the same time-honored cooking techniques and offer different daily specials.
Tina estimates that 90 percent of the menu is made fresh each day. They cut their own steaks, roast their own turkey and beef daily, grind their own meat and make their own hamburger patties. They also make their own salad dressing, whip their own butter, make their own syrup … the list is endless.
“He’s the hardest working man,” Tina says of Danny. “He’s here every day, often from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.”
“I don’t mind,” Danny shrugs, smiling. “I enjoy it. And I feel bad when I’m not here and people ask about me.”
Meanwhile, the Longhouse continues to offer a varied selection of breakfast, lunch, and dinner items. People rave about their pancakes, omelets, eggs Benedict, burgers, ribeye steak sandwiches, pork chops, and fried chicken. From meat, seafood, and pasta dishes to salads, vegetarian fare, and high-protein options, there’s something for everyone. So, it’s no wonder that you’ll find so many Gilroy residents and visitors here.
They’ve also got a full bar and have live music every Friday and Saturday night. Plus, there’s a patio, as well as a banquet room that seats 80 and can open to the bar if someone wants to schedule a large event.
The ancient longhouse was communal, filled with a spirit of family and an atmosphere of tradition. After 41 years, the Longhouse Restaurant still lives up to that name.
Donna Lane is a storyteller and San Jose native who earned her journalism degree at San Francisco State University. She lives in Gilroy with her family, who inspire her to celebrate life each day.