CINCINNATI -- Myra Griffon is not Greek.
She’s never had any professional training as a chef.
And, before January 28, 1977 —the day she opened Myra’s Dionysus in a former coffee shop at 121 Calhoun Street near the University of Cincinnati — she had never even worked in a restaurant before.
None of these things really matter any more, though. Because Myra Griffon — a Kansas native who learned to cook in the 4H Club —has owned and operated one of Clifton’s most beloved ethnic restaurants for 37 years.
And, this Sunday, just about five months shy of her 84th birthday, she’s hanging up her chef’s hat for good.
In hindsight, her original plan seems more like a whim. A divorced mother of two living in Detroit in the late 1970’s, Griffon was a school teacher when she came up with the idea to open a Greek restaurant.
“I went to Chicago to visit my daughter who was in school at the time and we ate gyros, and I said: ‘These are so good! Why can’t you get them in other places?’”
The self-described “Greek in the heart” (she’s actually English and German) decided right then and there that sharing gyros with the world was her calling. Nevermind that she didn’t know the first thing about Greek food or starting restaurants. She did know two things: She wanted to open her eatery next to a university; and she didn’t want to do it in Detroit – “there were too many Greek people there who knew what they were doing.”
Griffon initially had a business partner but that fell through. Undeterred she moved forward on her own: “My mother used to say I was like a bulldog; if I got my teeth in something I didn’t let go.”
For reasons that remain murky to her today, she selected a leased row house just steps from UC’s Clifton campus as her location. She said she had been to Cincinnati in the 1960s, but said she can't recall what drew her back to the city nearly 40 years ago.