Goodbye to Como’s Pete’s, You Will Be Missed

  • By cvbizz
  • April 8, 2021
  • 0
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For my entire life, Como’s Pete’s has been on Augusta Road. As a teenager, Como’s hamburger plate with onion rings was perfection and when we moved back to Greenville in 1995 and had kids, it became our family spot. When the kids became teenagers and we often couldn’t agree on anything, we could all agree on dinner at Como’s.

Along with feeding my family, often twice a week, Como’s was incredibly supportive of the local community. Nick was always open to providing meals for our church and donating gift cards for fundraisers. Recently, I have worked with them to provide lunches at the Juvenile Detention Center and if I couldn’t make the pickup, they would actually deliver the food.

I got to know Nick and Tony a bit and wish them nothing but good things in the future. As Greenville grows and our local spots seem to disappear, it feels like a little bit of the special quality of the city goes with them.

This week, we asked Sarah Moore of Pimento and Prose to talk to Nick and Tony as they enter their last few days in business. It’s a great conversation and gives us all some insights as to why so many places in the Upstate are named Pete’s, the family nature that made Como’s so special, Nick’s favorite menu item, and more about this iconic Greenville spot.

It’s unfortunately become pretty common nowadays to hear of a restaurant closing. Whether it be for a lack of business, or the inability to pivot for the higher demands of a COVID-19 world, some people haven’t been able to keep up.

This, however, is not the case with the restaurant we’re reviewing today, Como’s Pete’s #4. Unfortunately, their last day is tomorrow, Friday, April 8th. My friend Chris from ion Greenville suggested I spend some time with them. I got a few minutes to sit down and talk to the owners.

Here is our conversation:

“I’m Nick and my brother Tony is the guy with the long hair we’re the two who have been here the last 30 some-odd years.”

So, how did the business get started?

“Well, my dad got here in 1954 when he was 13 years old and he became a partner in this restaurant in 1956 with his cousins. It was on that wall in this parking lot and the original restaurant was just an old Drive-In.”

“The mural where the original Pete’s #4 used to be across the parking lot.

I grew up in here working on the weekends, but from 1987 I became full-time, and have been here ever since. My brother got here later in 1992, he was only working weekends because he was in college. But when he graduated college he would come help me out because he felt sorry for me. I’m still here and that’s what happened!”

Where did you get your love of food from, did you always want to cook?

“Well I always just wanted to be around my dad. We just wanted to help family, honestly, and they were working all the time. So if I wanted to hang out with my dad, I would come to the restaurant. I’d get off school and tell them to please drop me off here. So we would work here after school a couple of days and then once I started driving, it was more often, and then I was always here.”

Is there a favorite memory or a most memorable customer that you’ve had over the years?

“I’m not kidding when I say thousands of customers. The last couple of years, we’ve lost a lot of good customers, some of the older customers over the years. I got some letters today and some emails from fourth-generation people that were coming into the restaurant. There’s all kinds of good employees too, Jerry Williams used to work here forever, and he’s been passed away for almost 20 years now. The guy that we got here now is Lawrence Jenkins, we call him “Scrap”, started working here I think at 16, and he’s 72 years old now! There are no people like that anymore – there’s nobody that comes in and starts working for a place and just stays like for their lifetime. Not that I see, there used to be a lot like that. We’ve had good customers, lots of good families around here, just good memories.”

So what are you looking forward to in retirement?

“Outside of this, if COVID-19 disappears a little bit and we could start traveling, I’d like to go back to Greece and see my family that I haven’t seen in a long time. But no plans other than that. I’m originally from here, but my parents are from Greece and my father’s sister is still in Greece. Four of my mom’s brothers and sisters are there, just a lot of family. We’d love to take the kids if we can. We always say every summer that we’re going to go, and with the restaurant, you know, it never really works out that way.”

I know Chris said you used to do a lot of community work too?

“Oh yes, churches, stuff with the juvenile detention. This Friday we’re doing something for them, so it’ll be our last time doing something like that. But yes, we’ve done whatever we could do, my dad always tried to give back to the church. Any church that called that they had something going, we helped.”

That’s what Chris mentioned to me, that all the support they had for the juvenile organization over the years was great and you all were really good about giving back to the community and it was much appreciated.

“It’s a little Bittersweet but it’s going to be okay. My brother and I, we’ll busy, we’re going to redevelop. We’ve got some other properties we’ve been working on, and we’ll be around. We might reinvent ourselves somewhere, who knows, we might just do it again. But it’ll definitely be a lot smaller scale or won’t be so dependent upon a bunch of help.”

So this one’s number four, are there numbers one through three or…?

“So there’s one through I want to say 12? My dad got here in the ’50s, my great uncles, they bought the Pete’s #1 and then they opened two, three, four, and five. This was Number Four, I cannot remember where five is right now. All the nephews did the same thing up to #12 though. So my dad bought his last partner out in 1976, and when he bought it out he put his last name on the front, which is how Como’s Pete’s #4 came to be. Then the guy on Pendleton Street did it and said “Spero’s Pete’s #3”, so everybody started to do the whole last name thing with their business.”

Do you have a favorite menu item?

“I like the onion rings. I love onion rings, they’re not very good for me, but I love them

The day that we visited was late in the afternoon, and they had run out of a lot of menu items, including the “famous” onion rings. We did get to try their cheeseburgers and chicken tender salad with homemade honey mustard dressing. Highlights of the salad included, the homemade honey mustard dressing and the pickles which added a surprising but refreshing note to the dish. Everything was delicious, and the burger reminded us of classic Americana

So, tell me about the bird dog that you have on your menu. I originally heard the bird dog is a hyper-local dish, and the only place I’ve really ever seen it is this tiny little hole-in-the-wall out in Pendleton. So is this just a South Carolina thing, is it a southern thing? Where did you first hear about it or was it just something that you guys grew up with?

“I don’t know, some people would come and say “I want a bird dog”. As far as I knew, my whole life, it was just chicken tenders with a piece of cheese and a strip of bacon and honey mustard on a bun. I don’t know where it came from!”

I tried to look it up on Google at one point and we couldn’t find anything about it, I actually had to make a copycat recipe on my blog because we loved it so much but nobody seemed to know where it came from or the history about it.

“We have them, we have a little bit of everything actually. That’s what happened in the 50-60’s, 70s, early 80s, you could have 7, 8, 10 menu items and that was the norm. Then it got to where people wanted a bigger selection, but now I think the trick is to go back to old school and have about 10 or 15 staple items and that’s all you specialize in. Because then you’re not depending on a bunch of people to help you out to make a whole lot of varied dishes, because it’s hard to find anybody.”

That’s what I was talking to somebody about earlier today. I read an article about how there’s just a ton of restaurants that want to hire and need help!

“I’m sure if you go to any restaurant they’ll tell you. Today, every restaurant that we’re affiliated with has called me to ask us to please send us your help, because we’re really in need of people right now. I know more places that are closed like we’ve been, because we just didn’t have the help. We really didn’t want to have the quality of our food or service go down, this was a big factor in our deciding to close. .It’s been busy, it’s been good, but the lack of help just kind of helped me say, yeah, it’s time to go and then we’ll figure it out. So do you like Greenville so far?”

Oh yeah, I moved down to Greenville right after college for a job and I didn’t stay with that job, but ever since then I’ve fought to stay in Greenville because I love it so much. The people are great and so is the food scene. I have my 9-5 of course but the blog is pretty much everything else I do with my life – recipe testing, and going to talk to restaurants like yours.

“Oh, so you’re a foodie foodie for sure!”

Haha I do know how to cook and bake, so yes definitely! I like to make sure that I keep my skills sharp and I continue to try and learn as much as I can about food and different cultures and cuisines. I love talking to people about what foods they grew up with, and Connecting with people through food

“Well, I appreciate you all for the support and thank you for coming out.”

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