Between 1978 and 1981, my husband attended the MU School of Law in Columbia.
I was away from my home and family for the first time in my life. As it is with most college-age people, we had little money, along with the news I was expecting at the time.
I worked nights as a nurse. Whenever we had a little extra money, it became routine to go to a little place called G&D Steakhouse when my husband would come home from class and before I would go to work.
From the first time we went there, Mr. Gus Aslanidis or his son Angelo always greeted us warmly when we walked in with “Hello, my friends,” as if he knew us. Personal service — with eye contact — always asking how I was doing.
Their steaks were so delicious, yet very inexpensive. And we splurged once in awhile on their homemade desserts. It was here also that I learned what baklava was.
As my pregnancy progressed there were complications, and I could not work full time. Money got tighter, but my husband insisted we still go once in awhile to G&D to make sure I was eating right.
One time, Mr. Aslanidis noted I didn’t order my usual steak but a small sandwich, and didn’t get a dessert. I told him money was tight but that we enjoyed getting out and coming here.
He personally brought my order to the table. It wasn’t the sandwich I paid for — it was a large steak, with all the fixings, and my baklava.
He told me I needed to eat right and don’t worry — he would always take care of us.
We lost our first baby and got pregnant again near the end of school. And Mr. Aslanidis always made sure I got enough to eat when we went there.
Fast-forward to last week: My son graduated from the MU School of Law. More than 25 members of our family came down for the event.
Where did we eat? You betcha.
I went the evening before to let them know a large group would be coming in the next day. And as it was almost 30 years ago, Gus’ son, Alex, who now runs the restaurant, greeted me warmly — with sincere eye contact — and assured me he would take care of us.
Sunday after the graduation and with the group hungry, Alex and his team welcomed us joyously as we arrived, quickly made and served our delicious steaks along with special orders for the young of chicken strips and grilled cheese sandwiches. When my son came through the line, Alex warmly congratulated him and told my son his order and his girlfriend’s was on the house.
The atmosphere was festive — laughter and smiles. Then, many had baklava and a hot cup of coffee before heading back to St. Louis. Alex even offered to take a picture of the group.
Before we left, my husband and I told our family and Alex our story of why G&D was so special to us. No, we didn’t go to some fancy place where we would wait and wait — have to order, pay more than what the food was worth — but to this place where the food is excellent, with fast service and above all — and most important — they were family to me, and we wanted to pay it forward.
He wasn’t surprised; he then told us of his Greek family’s beginnings here in America — his father understood not having much — and always made sure others were taken care of, as many did for him.
Here’s to Mr. Gus Aslanidis and his sons, Angelo and Alex.
G&D will always remain in our hearts.
Debra and Mike Henderson are former Columbia residents who now reside in St. Louis. Mike earned his law degree from MU in 1981, while Debra supported him while working at Boone County Hospital, now Boone Hospital Center.