Regulars hugged the servers they'd gotten to know over the years, telling them they will be missed or exchanging Facebook handles so they could stay in touch.

Longtime customers wondered where they would go now and what would become of the life-sized "Blues Brothers" statues by the entrance, joking that they could put them out on their lawn or move their car out of the garage to make room.

They posed for pictures with Broadway Cafe owner George Borovilos, who turned off the lights at his landmark Greek diner on U.S. 30 by the Valparaiso University campus for the final time Sunday. Lines stretched out the door for much of the day, and many people phoned in take-out orders to beat the crowds.

"I've never seen so much crying in my life," Borovilos said. "We're family. That's why they call it a family restaurant. Twenty-three years — that's a whole generation. Everybody's going to miss it. Everybody's taking pictures or wanting to keep something from the restaurants."

Customers took many souvenirs on the final day Sunday, including the "please wait to be seated" sign.

People came from as far away as Wisconsin, Ohio, Illinois and Michigan on Sunday to eat the lemon rice soup, Greek pork chops or all-day breakfast one last time.

"It's unbelievable," Borovilos said. "I've never seen anything like it."

Borovilos decided to retire at the age of 67. He said he can't sell the family style restaurant because it sits on Valparaiso University property, the lease runs out in 14 months and he's been told the university has other plans for the property in the future.

It will be missed.

Hobart resident Anita Popp, who was a chef at fine dining spots like Louis' Bon Appetit in Crown Point and Clayton's in Valparaiso, said the soup at Broadway Cafe was amazing and the turkey was the best thing she's ever eaten. She's eaten there every day since learning it would close.

"They were both five-star restaurants, and this is my favorite restaurant," she said. "The atmosphere, the love here is amazing. I didn't even cry when the restaurants I worked at closed, but I just started crying when my daughter from Ohio called to tell me my favorite restaurant was closing after seeing it on Facebook. The food here is five-star, I would give it 10 stars, but it just has an atmosphere of love."

Doris Brown has dined frequently at the old-school 240-seat Greek diner, with a neon sign around the counter and fluted Greek columns etched into glass partitions over the booths, with her husband Winston "Brownie" Brown since it opened, coming in several times a week and often bringing friends from school or church.

On Friday, she and "four or five of us ladies" serenaded the restaurant from the balcony with choir renditions of "Sentimental Journey," "Count Your Blessings," "God Will Take Care of You" and other songs.

"We bid them farewell," she said. "It's overwhelming to me that they're leaving the place. I just can't imagine never eating at the Broadway Cafe again. It's just a sad time. I have so many memories."

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Nicholas Svetich said he's been regularly coming to the Broadway Cafe "for 12 or 15 years, a long time." As much as he loved the food, he said he came for the familiar faces.

"This wasn't just some place you came to eat," he said. "You knew the people here, good old George and his whole family. How do you explain an institution?"

He also loved the food, especially the Greek Spartan pork chops.

"You could get whatever you felt like — saganaki or French onion soup," he said. "It didn't matter what you wanted, they had it. And it was always good. After coming here 15 years, I knew the whole menu but still had to look at it every time... What do we do now? Where are we going to go?"

Hebron residents Linda and Rob Morgan were regulars who have been coming since the restaurant used to be a Big Boy hamburger restaurant decades ago. They ate at Broadway Cafe for breakfast, lunch and dinner often since there's "nothing" in Hebron.

"It's good service, good food, just a good place," she said.

Noting the Blues Brothers statues in the waiting room were for sale, she hinted to her husband that her birthday was coming up.

The Broadway Cafe plans to auction off tables, chairs, fixtures and more, and will announce the date of the auction on its Facebook page. It sold out of T-shirts.

People have repeatedly asked the family to share or sell recipes, but they will remain a family secret, family member Dina Vazanellis said.

"Most of our customers have been coming in for a very long time," she said. "They have a lot of fond memories — first dates, graduations, anniversaries. A lot of people say their grandparents used to come here every day and it reminds them of their grandparents when they walk in. A lot of people have a lot of memories."

One customer came in five times Sunday, just to soak up as much of the atmosphere as possible.

"A lot of regulars coming in were family," she said. "We got to know them, and to know their families. Everybody's been coming in for years."

NWI Business Ins and Outs


Business Reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.