John Poulos, owner of John’s Restaurant in Napanee, Ontario.
John made me a mean clubhouse (when I sat at the diner bar, he yelled from the back grill, “Put me to work!”) and told me about his life for almost an hour. He’s 85 and says he’s never taken a day off since he arrived in Canada from Greece in 1948. For the first year he lived in Canada, he worked and lived on a farm (literally in one of the barns) before applying for a loan to purchase a restaurant in Belleville. He would go on to own a share in Morrison’s restaurant in Kingston before selling it to another family member (“Working 4am-11pm, I couldn’t do it any longer after a while.”) and has owned and operated the restaurant that bears his name since the 1980s.
"You have to work," he said. "You can’t just hold your hands to the sky and ask for things. You have the hands and the brains, so do the work."
It’s so easy to hit the familiar chain restaurants when you’re on the road, but rolling the dice on a greasy spoon can be infinitely more rewarding.