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Little Pete’s

Nearly five years ago, I wrote a column about my favorite places to lunch while shopping on Black Friday. I mentioned Little Pete’s at 19th and Chestnut streets because the restaurant offers one of the best lunch deals in town.

Last week, while a friend and I enjoyed big, juicy cheeseburgers with hot French fries and coleslaw ($5.25) and brewed iced tea ($1.20), it dawned on me that I never formally reviewed Little Pete’s. I have been a regular customer for many years. It’s open for breakfast, lunch and dinner daily, and there’s a special brunch menu on weekends.

I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like Little Pete’s. My friend Joan, who has lived in South Philly for more than 25 years, takes the bus to the restaurant every Friday morning to meet a group of women who have been breakfasting together for a number of years. The place caters to several generations; it is not unusual to see grandmoms enjoying lunch with their grandchildren while businesspeople discuss the events of the day.

The special breakfast menu is offered through 11 a.m. Lunch and dinner specials include soup, beverage and dessert. Soups change daily, but there is always a choice of two. My favorites are split pea (hold the croutons, please) and Manhattan clam chowder. The restaurant also has a full-service bar. Sometimes Edward and I will have a martini before dinner. They are medium-sized, well made and very inexpensive.

Little Pete’s serves Jewish food like blintzes, big deli sandwiches and bagels and lox. You also will find American favorites along with Greek and Italian platters. A friend who is a milkshake maven says Little Pete’s whips up the best shake ($2.60) in town. Except for an occasional service glitch, I have never been disappointed with my meal at this small venue.

Following are my recommendations from the all-day menu.

My favorite breakfast is scrambled eggs, prepared "fluffy," with crisp bacon and rye toast ($5.45). Home fries come with the platter and I always request they be prepared well done so they are nice and brown and crisp. Edward prefers the three-egg cheese omelet ($5.25), with old-fashioned American cheese.

Once in a while I go for pancakes ($4.45), and they always arrive piping hot. Waffles are Belgian-style ($4.45), which means they are made with a malt batter and are puffy and not flat like those we make at home.

When my sister Sandy visits us, we usually have lunch at Little Pete’s. She loves the burgers, but a club sandwich ($6.95) is her favorite. You will never receive processed turkey at Little Pete’s; the birds are roasted in-house. The turkey club is piled high with roasted breast, crisp bacon, lettuce and tomato. The restaurant serves real kosher Jewish deli-style pickles. A bag of chips comes with all sandwiches.

Edward, the Reuben lover in our family, gives Little Pete’s high marks on the sandwich ($6.20). There are variations but this one is classic, made with grilled corned beef, imported Swiss cheese and sauerkraut topped with cool Russian dressing. The fixings are on rye, which is then grilled.

My mom loves the crab cake sandwich ($4.46), served with tartar sauce on a toasted bun. It’s a lunch special on Fridays, when a creamy version of Manhattan clam chowder is always available. I love Little Pete’s huge cheesesteak with French fries ($6.95 lunch special with soup, etc.; cheesesteak is $5.25 � la carte). The potatoes are the steak-cut version and, although I prefer shoestring fries, these are very good.

The chef’s salad and Greek salad come in two sizes. I like the classic chef’s salad ($6.95 small, $7.65 large), but my favorite is Chris’ salad ($7.95 and big enough for two women to share). It is made with mixed greens, fried mushrooms, tomatoes, cucumbers, hard-boiled egg, croutons, grilled breast of chicken, bacon bits, cheddar cheese and choice of dressing. Russian goes best with this, I think.

Few people I know order � la carte during dinner at Little Pete’s. Although the dinner specials change daily, many items — especially an array of fresh fish — are always available. The restaurant is very accommodating for people like my mom who have smaller appetites. She can have a complete 5-ounce Norwegian salmon filet dinner, with two vegetables, for just $10.95. She also likes the scrod special ($9.95). Scrod is baby cod, and if you’ve never tried it, order it here. Have it broiled with a little butter and lemon juice.

From time to time I can find a whole baby flounder dinner. The whole fish arrives without the head, but you eat it off the bone. I prefer flounder cooked on the bone because it is tastier and sweeter. I order it slightly undercooked. In fact, I always order fish this way here because sometimes the fish is overcooked to my taste.

Edward likes the spinach pie ($9.95), known as spanikopita in Greek cuisine. Seasoned fresh spinach is cooked and wrapped in layers of phylo dough and baked in the oven. The portion is good-sized. My sister has simple tastes and always enjoys broiled scallops ($14.95).

Stuffed peppers ($9.95) are a staple of Greek cuisine and I love them. The cooks at Pete’s make a mixture of ground beef and rice, seasoned just right, and stuff the mix into the peppers. They are topped with tomato sauce and baked in the oven.

Vegetable choices include pickled beets, which I love; fresh steamed broccoli; green beans (sometimes they are fresh, other times they are the frozen Italian-style variety and are usually overcooked); good, old-fashioned hot mashed potatoes; coleslaw; applesauce; really good baked potatoes; French fries and oven-browned potatoes. If I am tucking into a hot turkey sandwich ($7.95), I always have mashed potatoes with gravy.

Dinner desserts call for ice cream, sherbet, a slice of pie, pudding or Jell-O. Chocolate ice cream is good, but it’s even better sitting atop a piece of commercially baked but tasty apple pie.

Two-and-a-half tips of the toque to Little Pete’s.

Little Pete’s
1904 Chestnut St.
Credit cards accepted
Wheelchair-accessible (Both bathrooms can easily accommodate a wheelchair.)

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