Thursday, January 10, 2008

A Fact About The Twin Cities: The Break-Up Cafe

Oren Snarkalopalis didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary about his restaurant, Gyros City, until it had been open two or three weeks. Then, the veteran restaurateur says, he picked out a definite trend. “Breakups,” Oren says. “Everybody always chooses my café for their breakups.”

Since Gyros City opened its doors in 1981, the cozy Greek restaurant has garnered an almost supernatural reputation as the site most likely for a couple to break up. Located in a quiet Uptown neighborhood between Harriet and 12th Street, Gyros City is constantly filled with couples—some men drawing shocked patterns on the red-and-white checked tablecloths, women gesturing with hands stuffed full of Kleenex—all of them breaking up. The tables are dotted with plate after plate of Snarkalopalis’ prized gyros left half-eaten. In the kitchen, Oren always turns the radio up as loud as it can go. “So I can’t hear the sobbing,” he explained.

Over the past three weeks I went into Gyros City about twice a day, and usually found myself the only single person in the whole restaurant. Everybody else was a couple, breaking up. Some had come from as far away as Edina. One couple I interviewed said that they had been walking by the restaurant and thought that they should pop in for dinner. “Then,” the unidentified woman sobbed, “as soon as we sat down, he starts telling me that he kissed somebody else at his office Christmas party. I mean, what am I gonna do? He met my grandma!” If a couple walks into Gyros City, it seems, they will break up.

The restaurant has built up an eerie reputation with Uptown residents. The phrase to go on a date to Gyros City is local slang for breaking up. Some couples will even test their relationships by going to Gyros City and trying to remain together. Few do.

I asked Oren if he was married. He smiled. “Yes,” he said, “and she’s never been in here. And that’s how I’m keeping it.”

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