Little Pete’s is closing after 40 years of serving breakfasts, lunches and dinners 24 hours a day, at 17th and Chancellor in Philadelphia. Shed a tear with me at the passing of a great American institution, the diner. Simple, unpretentious, friendly, a home to everyone, offering delicious comfort food.
As a native of Baltimore, about 100 miles south of Philly, I visited that great neighbor city numerous times but never found my way to Little Pete’s. My loss. Other authentic American diners elsewhere have been among my favorite haunts, though, especially Lester’s on State Road 84 at the south end of Fort Lauderdale, not far from the main entrance to Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. Betsy and I took our three daughters, their husbands and a total of six grandchildren to Lester’s for breakfast as part of our 50th anniversary celebration. We wanted the kids to sit down to a real diner breakfast that everyone should experience at least once.
Little Pete is, in fact, little, according to a National Public Radio feature I heard late this afternoon. He had to stand on a box to do his work, which began as a dishwasher. Yes, there also was a Big Pete and a Middle Pete, but guess who ended up owning the place?
The neighborhood around Little Pete’s has grown and prospered to the point that developers want to replace the beloved diner with a luxury hotel at his busy corner. That might be a good sign for the neighborhood and for Philadelphia, but it is a shame that Little Pete’s has to go. As one of the diner’s regular customers told the NPR reporter, we always need to have affordable food.