I have seen many things at Pete's Kitchen. I've witnessed fights and the first tentative, groping moments of new (and no doubt highly temporary) love affairs. I've eaten shoulder-to-shoulder with famous folk, sprung for dinner for bums and had a group of transvestites buy me pie. I've been there on nights when I was the only one in the dining room who wasn't drawing a paycheck from Pete's, and on others when the floor was truly standing room only, when the crowds were so tight I could've lifted my feet off the ground and been carried around the place by the Brownian motion of the mob. Because I am the sort of fella who puts a lot of stock in such community activities as sobering up at the diner, I've visited Pete's more times than I can count. And because I'm always on the lookout for ways to edify the youth of this failing Republic, I would suggest that a boy could secure for himself a fine education in the esoteric arts of music promotion, car thievery, restaurant ownership and general hooliganism just by spending a couple of nights a week at Pete's, listening in on conversations and carefully observing its denizens. But there's one thing I haven't seen at Pete's for quite a while: a decent goddamn meal. I know, I know, this is a short-order kind of joint, and no one is expecting the Zagat inspectors to come walking through the door (although I know for a fact that one Zagat inspector does drop by on occasion). Still, that's no reason for the breakfast burrito -- which used to be one of Pete's champion plates -- to turn into something just short of a Mexican science experiment. I've had cheeseburgers charred so badly you'd need a forensic pathologist to identify the remains, oily soups, sour coffee and -- sin among sins -- slices of pie that were barely edible, lifeless and spongy and redolent only of fragrant, stale, refrigerated air. This tragic state of culinary affairs is depressing -- and normally, I remedy depression with an order of avgolemono soup and pie at Pete's. Now what?
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