Paul Karas had connections to many Fox Valley restaurants
If you live in the Fox Valley, there's a good chance you have eaten at a restaurant connected to Paul Karas.
Maybe it was a rack of ribs at Alexander's Cafe in Elgin, prime rib at one of four Village Squires, or the $1 burger special at a Rookie's Pub and Grill, all longtime favorites. Then there are newer places, such as Old Republic (Kitchen+Bar), serving a beef roulades special for Oktoberfest as well as saganaki, a Greek appetizer popular at all the restaurants.
They all had connections to Karas, who died Saturday at age 81.
"My attitude and my family's attitude is that if a customer spends $5 at your restaurant, he should receive at least $5 worth of good food and good service. If a restaurant doesn`t do that, you`re insulting the customer, probably losing him forever and not fooling anybody," Karas said, in a 1992 interview with the Chicago Tribune.
His son, Bob Karas, who succeeded him at Alexander's, echoed that.
"He expected good food, clean restaurants, and great value for the customer," Bob Karas said Monday.
Until about 11 months ago, Karas would come by the restaurant, testing the food and giving Bob orders and advice.
"Advice you could not ignore," Bob Karas said.
Paul Karabougiokidis was born in Russia to Greek parents and grew up in Greece. Bob Karas said the family was poor and worked as tobacco farmers.
Karas emigrated to the United States in 1963 and his surname was shortened when he came through Ellis Island. He spoke no English and had just a fourth-grade education.
Karas worked by day for a produce company in Elgin and by night in restaurants, saving money to buy his own place.
"He worked and he adapted," Bob Karas said.
From 1965 to 1974, he was a partner and owner of Vopner's Liquors and Paul's Tap in Elgin.
The Karas Restaurant Group started in 1974, when he and his brother, George, bought the Village Squire in West Dundee. "From there the rest was kind of history," Bob Karas said.
They added Village Squires in Crystal Lake and McHenry. In 1987, the duo opened Alexander's Restaurant, in Elgin.
As their children joined the family business, more restaurants followed, including the Rookies Sports Bars in St. Charles, Elgin, Roselle, Huntley and Hoffman Estates. There's another Alexander's Cafe in Geneva, and the group recently bought the former Little Owl/Flagstone site in Geneva.
Karas became involved with St. Sophia Greek Orthodox Church in the late 1970s as a founding member, serving on the parish council, at Greek Fest, and on other committees.
Visitation for Karas will take place from 4 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at the church, 525 Church Road. The funeral is at 10 a.m. Wednesday.
Memorial gifts may be made to the church.