The Early Years [1945-1960]
At the young age of 19, John Varavvas found his true passion.. cooking. A Cyprus native, John was living in Africa as a game hunter and working in a restaurant in the evenings where he learned to cook. In 1926 he came over to America from Cyprus and heard about a Greek chef at Republic Steel that might give him a job. He got the job at Republic in their cafeteria and also worked at a grocery store in the evenings that he lived above. When the owner of the grocery store passed away he bought the store. In 1932 John opened up a second grocery store in Canton, John’s Market, and in 1940 a third was opened at the present location of 2749 Cleveland Avenue.
With such a love for cooking, John decided to follow his heart and open a restaurant. He turned over the grocery store to his nephew Leo which became Leo’s Market and in 1945 “John’s Restaurant” was opened. Serving mostly Greek food, the restaurant sat just 48 people and ran with 3 employees. The original restaurant was where the bar room is today.
John’s family lived above the restaurant and his son Tony loved helping out. He would come and help out his father every day after school. In 1950 Tony entered Kent State University to pursue a degree but after just 3 short months his father John fell ill. Tony dropped out of school to come home and take over the restaurant at the young age of 19. In 1953 John’s started serving beer and wine. The lunch counter was taken out, the bar was put in and John’s Restaurant became John’s Bar and Grille.
Business Booms [1960-1980's]
In 1960 Tony took over the adjacent store room and expanded the restaurant to where the main dining room is today. Business was booming and a bigger kitchen was also needed so the second kitchen was built. John’s was now famous for their coneys and burgers. Chopped sirloin and grilled ham sandwiches were also a favorite of this time. Tony’s son John, named after his grandfather, also grew up in the restaurant helping whenever he could and working after school. After graduating at Miami University, John came home to enter the family business as the third generation.
In the early eighties the third room was added, known as the garden room. John’s was packing in the crowds and the yet another larger kitchen was needed. The kitchen was moved to where it is today. The restaurant went from 48 seats originally to the current 208 seating capacity and went from the original 3 employees to over 80 employees. The menu continued to grow as well and John’s became known for steaks, chops and seafood..
A New Era at John's
Like father and grandfather, John’s two daughters also grew up helping out at the restaurant. His oldest daughter Ana after graduating college, knew she wanted nothing more than to carry on the great tradition of the two men she looked up to most. Today you will find the second, third and fourth generations of Varavvas’ working side by side. Tony still comes in to work every morning at the age of 85. “I thoroughly enjoy waking up each morning and coming to work”. John is there cooking up John’s famous breakfasts and running the business each day. David Bamberger has been there for over 30 years making sure all the food is ordered and stocked. Ana is there at night managing the place along with long time employee of over 30 years Dan Singer.
For the 70 years John’s has been in business much remains the same, the four generations have been dedicated to the John’s tradition of serving excellent food with the finest service. We strive to keep John’s one of Canton’s finest traditions.