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John’s Restaurant a family hit for half a century

Published on

Year of Local

Laura Greaves

This is the 16th in a series of submitted stories produced by the Year of Local, a collaborative project highlighting businesses and not-for-profit organizations in Sarnia.

John’s Restaurant has seen many changes since it opened in 1964.

That year John Stathakis bought the home at 1643 London Rd. from owners who were already serving meals from the premises.

“He would put a small sign out by the road that said ‘EAT’ whenever his wife did some extra cooking. The first few people that pulled up would get to eat,” explained John’s son, Leo Stathakis.

“Now they say, ‘I’ll meet you at John’s.’”

The new restaurant was a hit with travellers and truckers alike. It sat on the Chicago-Toronto traffic corridor in an area known as the Golden Mile. When John purchased the house, he converted the front into a dining room for the restaurant and the family lived in the back.

However, they soon found they needed more space. “The current building was built in the 1970s and the original house demolished for parking,” Stathakis said.

His father had emigrated from Greece and worked as a dishwasher before starting his own business. When the restaurant became too busy for John and wife Tassia to run, John invited two nephews from Greece, George and Louie Perdikis, to join them. They have been at John’s for more than forty years.

When Highway 402 opened in the 1970s traffic slowed considerably.

“When the highway was built, it was devastating to the area,” Stathakis said. “A lot of businesses closed and hotels suffered. John’s was an exception; it became a destination. People from Sarnia came, of course, but John’s grew a loyal following throughout southwestern Ontario.”

Over the years the building has expanded many times.

The business’s continued success comes from the food. Canadian peameal bacon is a cornerstone, and Schneiders, the meat company, has recognized John’s Restaurant as the number one independent seller of Canadian bacon.

“People think of John’s as a breakfast place, but we have a loyal following for breakfast, lunch and dinner,” Stathakis said.

Soups are made from scratch, and signature dishes like old-fashioned pot roast, Greek souvlaki and clubhouse sandwiches have been joined on the menu by newer classics like fish tacos, gyros and quinoa salads.

“If George has picked up something at the Farmer’s Market in the morning, there is a good chance it will be in that evening’s special,” Stathakis said.

While loyal guests help spread the word the restaurant’s secret ingredient is great staff, he added.

“We have people that have been working here from ten to forty-five years.”

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