Pete’s

Dimitri (if you had to think of a more stereotypically Greek name) stands at the counter of Pete’s Famous Diner every day except Sunday cleaning the chipped linoleum counter more times than it can bare. Today, one can only guess as to where Pete’s got the name Famous, as neither grand design nor steady crowd can substantiate this claim. No, Pete’s is a humble spot on a humble street in Poughkeepsie. Where passers-by might moan of a more illustrious past but continue in the thousands to try to make a life here. And Pete’s with its Greek family ownership going back as far as where the memory fades into the glory of Poughkeepsie, continues on too, serving up omelets and hash browns and just enough grease to get you going in the morning. Most people congregate at the counter, either to watch Dimitri clean or because the back parts of the store let out the most heat. Across the street sits the competition, an equally broken-in breakfast spot, with its own daily clientele and its own allegiances. But people won’t talk about the Big Tomato when Dimitri or his slight mother with a hairspray-stiff face slide a cup of mud your way, with Splenda on the side, just the way you always get it. And though Pete’s even has a drive-through a symptom of old Poughkeepsie succumbing to the automobile, old-timers need to stop in if only for the camaraderie. Right on the middle of main street with an uncertain future, one that many look towards with the rabid foam of real estate speculation. For now, mostly Mexican immigrants live around this Greek establishment, the changing face of a town 70 miles north of New York City, just far enough that when Dimitri asks people inside when’s the last time they’ve been down there, some say more than a few years. Some haven’t been down there since the linoleum was in much better condition. Since before Dimitri took the place over from his Dad. To them, the place is more famous than any new chef’s venture in the City. And to the newcomer it might be a sentimental bastion of Americana in the years of kitshy knockoffs. Of Johnny Rocket’s and Sonic’s where they 50’s style rollerblade you your shitty burger. The burger here is just as shitty, well maybe marginally better, but Dimitri doesn’t sugarcoat it. The Americana that never really was. Just like Main Street, Poughkeepsie was never what people think they remember it to be. The stories that a thrown around Dimitri’s linoleum like the omelets and the burgers and the grease and the coffee have the cracks of age in them. But they’re still there like Pete’s is. Putting on its best face, an alien thatch-cottagesque style, and proudly facing a dollar store and a rent-a-center two resounding testaments to economic instability. Hugged on either side by a parking lot that was never once reached capacity. But it’s still there and out the front windows Dimitri and crew watch the town around them change.