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- Our Roots -

Photo courtesy of the Old Trails Museum
Family keeps famous eatery soaring high

Nostalgia on menu in Winslow

By Bob Thomas
Special for The Arizona Republic

     WINSLOW - The Falcon Restaurant is a rare bird indeed, a family restaurant. set in the mode of the '50s and '60s.
     Today, when fast-food franchises far outnumber family restaurants, the Falcon seems a little out of place, like a time frame from the Route 66 television show.  Which is not a bad comparison for the Winslow landmark sits flush on what used to be Route 66, the main drag of this northern Arizona city.
     Hundreds of thousands of people have eaten at the restaurant, which is on the corner of Third Street and westbound Route 66, and remembered it.  Today, they show up with grandkids in tow, grab the same table location as 30 years ago and - most probably - eat the same food. 
     "They remember us, sure," said one of the owners, Pete Kretsedemas.  "And they're glad we haven't changed our menu, gone to the shortcuts and the food processing that the other restaurants use these days."
     A lot of the business is nostalgia.  This year is the 66th anniversary of Route 66, the "Mother Road," or the first intercontinental paved road.
Actually, Route 66 led from Chicago to Los Angeles, but its creation changed the way Americans thought and traveled.
     It was the way west for thousands of impoverished "Okies" during the Depression years, and after World War II millions of people traveled it in the great burst of mobility during the golden years of the U.S. auto industry.
     But the Falcon is more than just an old restaurant.  It is, in its way, a Winslow institution.
     It was here that three Greek brothers, Pete, Jim and George Kretsedemas, settled, working long hours to pay off the restaurant mortgage, becoming active in Winslow community affairs and, between them, raising 12 children.

True family restaurant

     All the children, as they became old enough, worked in the restaurant.  Restaurant customers literally watched Kretsedemas children grow up busing dishes, working as waiters, waitresses, dishwashers and cook helpers.
     And each one, after graduating from Winslow High School, went to college and earned a degree.
     It was expected of them.  The Kretsedemas brothers were, above all, Americans who thoroughly appreciated --- and took advantage of --- this fabled Land of Opportunity.

"I love this Country."  Pete Kretsedemas said.  "What a wonderful country.  I can't get over it.  Here is a country that treats you as one of their own.
     "I admire and love this country.  There is no country like it in the world." he said.     To understand those sentiments, you have to know where the Kretsedemases and their large, extended family came from.

Enduring hardships
     In1907, Nick Kretsedemas and his friend, George Cheros, came to the United States as Greek immigrants and became citizens.  In 1928, Kretsedemas returned to Greece, married and started a family.     George, related to the Kretsedemases by marriage, stayed in the States, working at various restaurants and gradually drifting west.
     The Kretsedemas family numbered four sons when World War II broke out.  It was a period of intense hardship, and six months after the shooting stopped the elder Kretsedemas was dead.
     Going through their father's belongings, the sons discovered his naturalization papers.
     "we knew he had been to America, but we did not know he was a citizen. Besides, we could not read or speak English, so we took the papers to the U.S. Embassy to find out what they meant," Pete Kretsedemas said.
     To their surprise, they learned that because their father was a naturalized American, so were members of his family.  They could come to the United States too.
     Jim and George, the older brothers, left in 1947 thanks to a $400 U.S. government loan.  They found work as dishwashers in Alabama.

Pay as you go to stay
     When Pete's turn came in 1949, the cost of the loan had gone from $200 per person to $250.
     "my older brothers were paying back the government on the installment plan, but i chose to wait until I had the full amount and paying it all off in one lump sum.  I can't tell you how good it felt to write that check."
     A short time later, Pete' was drafted and served with the Army in Korea.
     Meanwhile, George Cheros had reached Winslow in 1932 and opened a Coney Island hot-dog stand.  It stood beside the Santa Fe railroad depot for many years and flourished.
     Cheros, a hard-working, frugal man, saved his money, and in 1955 had enough to build the Falcon Restaurant.
     "At the time it was the biggest restaurant in Winslow, and he found he needed reliable employees.  So he turned to us, the sons of his best friend," Pete Said.
     Gradually, the three Kretsedemas brothers saved enough to buy out Cheros.  But they kept the name, the menu and the restaurant's loyal customers.
     "We get some criticism because we don't change our menu," said Pete, who runs the front part of the restaurant while Jim and George do the cooking.  "But we do it this way because it works, and we can keep prices low.
     "We're probably one of the few restaurants left that hand-form ham-burger patties instead of buying frozen, preformed patties.  And we make up our own gravies and other homemade stuff.  It's the old-fashioned way, yes, but we think it is the best way," he said.
     And the 12 college graduates?
     "No," sighed Pete, "they all do other things.  None of them wants to come back and work here."


“The Falcon Restaurant is a rare bird indeed, a family restaurant, set in the mode of the '50's and '60s.” 

 - The Arizona Republic  -



“Great breakfast!  Super nice staff.  Route 66 gem!”

-  Lora K.  -

“Awesome.  BEST Mexican food we have ever eaten.  I'd show you a "before" pic but i ate most of it.   Friendly.  Vintage atmosphere with fun music.”  I'm supposed it wasn't packed.  You should try it.  5 star

-  Artist Tabitha B -

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