According to local news reports
, Olga's Kitchen, the Troy-based chain founded by Olga Loizon in 1970, will be reorganized under Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
When Loizon first opened her small restaurant in Birmingham in 1970, what we call today "Mediterranean food" hadn't gained acceptance beyond gyro stands, and it was places like Olga's that took the first steps of introducing Americans to the freshness, flavor, and flatbreads of that region. Sometimes the results were ungainly: An American might sniff at a gyro, but would accept a hot dog bathed in tzatziki and wrapped in a pita, for instance. It was called "The Olga Dog," and stayed on the menu for years, despite the laughter it might cause today's "sophisticated" fast-casual diners.
Over the last 10 years, of course, Mediterranean food has been declared as one of the most healthful cuisines, and now the cuisine is a bonanza. The sudden boost given to the sort of food Olga's served was a mixed blessing: In a decade, dozens of national competitors have entered the market, with dishes designed for a public much more familiar with and accepting of Mediterranean cuisines.
The management of Olga's had retooled menu items in recent years, and had planned an expansion tied to the growth of "fast casual" restaurants, places that are sort of like fast food, but aspire to healthier menus (and less class stigma).