Meet me at the Paragon The Greek cafe phenomenon

This exhibition is in the past.
20 February 2020—15 March 2020
Phillip Bacon Heritage Gallery, Level 4

Moussaka. Souvlaki. Paniyiri. Baklava. 

Today, Queenslanders love Greek food and culture. However, Meet me at the Paragon explores an untold past. In fact, the American-style cafés and milk bars your parents probably frequented as a child — the ones that served banana splits, fish ‘n’ chips, ice cream sundaes and homemade sweets - were likely owned by Greek migrants.

Imagine the tastes, experience the atmosphere and retrace the history of Queensland’s Greek cafes by learning the past and present true stories of the families that ran them in this fascinating exhibition.

The exhibition experience

  • Step back in time as you slide into a replica café booth to browse the ‘menus’ of Greek cafés throughout Queensland and appreciate the architectural installation reminiscent of Kingaroy’s Busy Bee Café
  • Hear the ‘daily opera’ of coffee machines, the clatter of cutlery and the general café hubbub in a special soundscape
  • View photographic portraits of Greek café descendants and connect with their stories
  • See original items from cafés across Queensland including original café signs, anodised milkshake cups, monogrammed plates, menus and other memorabilia
  • Reflect on the stories of Greek migrants and how their cafés changed Australian dining and cuisine forever


Women in Greek Cafes 

Although most proprietors of Greek cafes in Queensland were men, it was clearly a family affair. Wives, children and extended families all participated in the businesses.  In recognition of International Women's Day 2020, Dr Toni Risson, co-curator of Meet Me At the Paragon exhibition invited Beulah Castan, Helen Kentos and Julie Nichols to share some of their experiences about life in a Greek cafe. This event was recorded live at State Library on Tuesday 10 March. 

Women in Greek Cafes panel discussion, 10 March 2020, State Library of Queensland 

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Digital stories

About Meet me at the Paragon

Meet me at the Paragon co-curator Toni Risson provides an overview of the exhibition.

Aphrodite in Aprons

Helen Kentos and Goldie Lathouras talk about their working lives during the 40s, 50s and 60s.

Growing up behind bars

Victor Patty and Jimmy Samios share their memories about growing up as ‘Greek cafes kids’ in Warwick and Brisbane.

From the blog

A bird by any other name

Naming a café was a big deal for Greek proprietors. Many aligned themselves with their new homeland choosing names that said, “We’re Aussies.”

The Palms Cafe, Brisbane

The Palms Café, established in 1951 by Jerry Palmos, was located in Brisbane’s CBD at 171 Queen Street, next to the Regent Theatre.

Silver teapots and serviettes: Samios Foods

While thousands of Greeks worked behind café counters, Peter Samios came to Australia in 1922 and established a business supplying cafés.

Flick through Queensland’s Greek café ‘menus’

 From Barcaldine to Kingaroy, Bundaberg to Cairns, Townsville to Redcliffe and Roma to Quilpie, explore the ‘menus’ of Greek cafés across Queensland.

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