French Toast, My Dad, and a Diner in Philly

John-Paul-Titlow-Little-Petes-3_Thinking about the past, one day I decided to look up Little Pete’s, an iconic diner in Philadelphia. What I found was a little disturbing to be honest. The old restaurant is set to be torn down, to be replaced with a huge hotel. Out with the old, in with the new. Progress.

The last article I found about the ordeal was from November 2015, and the restaurant’s own Facebook page has not been updated. Since I no longer live in the area, I can’t confirm if this has yet to happen, but the latest news was that they had to move out by February of this year.

Oh well. I haven’t been there in years anyway. Easy come, easy go. Except that this place holds a special place in my heart.

Once upon a time, when I was a tween and later an early teenager, I used to go to the orthodontist in Philadelphia with my father. Just the two of us, not a common occurrence, other than these appointments.

After the orthodontist would do his thing, torturing my poor little mouth and taking care of a terrible overbite, my dad and I would go to eat. Good thing too. By then I was famished, and the intense light in my face while sitting in the old-fashioned chair remains vividly in my mind, my eyes seeing spots while I sometimes felt lightheaded from not having eaten. Nowadays they give patients sunglasses at the dentist’s office, but such was not the case back then.

So off to Little Pete’s we would go. It was always a madhouse, and we often had to wait for a table, eyeing the people sitting there like hawks. If someone got up, we’d rush to steal it before someone else who arrived after us could. And my sore mouth would be watering for that same French toast sprinkled with powdered sugar I always ordered.

v1There really were more bad childhood memories than good ones, so for me, Little Pete’s was just a special time, a sweet memory with my dad, who’s been gone for many years now. When I saw the online photos of inside the diner, I nearly cried. I remember sitting in these booths. I remember the bar, and especially the triangle window at the back, where we often sat.

Apparently Little Pete’s has another location for those who live in Philadelphia, but for me, it was that place, and more so, that alone time with my dad when he was happy and calm and around to take his daughter out for a late breakfast and to see the big city. Well, life goes on, but the memories are forever. I’ll always cherish old Little Pete’s, whether it’s a pile of rubble or a fancy hotel; it’ll still be intact in my mind.

UPDATE: Little Pete’s is set to close on Memorial Day 2017. It lasted longer than originally planned, but its time is almost up. If you live in the area, check it out before it’s gone!

D.M. Miller is the author of the interfaith “Heart” series as well as the poetry collection, Dandelion Fuzz and memoir, Half-Jew: Searching for Identity. The product of an interfaith marriage herself, Miller’s work explores the difficult themes of religion, politics, ethnicity, culture, family, ancestry and love. See her books on Amazon.


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