A beloved all-hours Center City diner is slated to close — to make way for a luxury hotel. Now a comedian best known for his work on “The Daily Show” is fighting to keep Little Pete’s at 17th and Chancellor streets.
If Little Pete’s is your “favorite scrapple counter in the world,” then you have something in common with John Hodgman. The comedian is better known for TV skits, including a character known as “The Deranged Millionaire.”
In a blog post, Hodgman explained his familiarity with the Philly greasy spoon: When in Philly — where his Mom was from — he stays at a hotel across the street from the beloved diner.
In an interview this week, he told us why:
“Little Pete’s is open all night long, it’s one of the few places I think you can go to that’s open all night long. And when you go to Little Pete’s at 1’clock in the morning, you see people from all walks of life,” he said. “And you see a lot of young kids who have nowhere else to go after hours. Everyone wants to eat bacon and eggs!”
Hodgman said if he is in town for 24 hours (a “scrapple vacation”), he goes to Little Pete’s at least twice.
“It is a wonderful diner of a sort that you don’t see often these days, because they’re all too often being destroyed to put up hotels and things,” he said.
In his blog post, Hodgman described the diner’s destruction as “… sad and dumb in the way almost all city development is sad and dumb. And also purposeless.”
Stepping out of the kitchen for a brief phone interview, Little Pete’s owner Peter Koutroubas said he appreciates Hodgman’s efforts to save the place.
“I think he’s right! I haven’t given up but, ah, you know? We’ll know in a couple of weeks,” Koutroubas said. “We’re going to see if they’re going to build a hotel or if they’re going to keep us there.”
Hodgman isn’t just a fan of the food, he said the less-than-luxurious-ambiance is part of the charm.
“Little Pete’s is redolent with Philadelphia — with the smells of a diner,” he told NewsWorks, calling the atmosphere, “affable but gruff.” Part of the appeal of the Center City spot is not being treated like a celebrity who appears on “The Daily Show,” he added.
“They aren’t going to make you feel great about coming in there. But you feel great because you know you’re being treated just as well and as poorly as everyone else around you,” he said. “But there’s one thing that you get when you sit down in Little Pete’s — it’s a good, clean, honest place for reasonable food. And I think the city needs it as much as it needs a fancy hotel. And maybe, if I were running things, I would say maybe a little bit more than a fancy hotel that’s across the street from another fancy hotel!”
Any chance Hodgman would stay in the new hotel if it is indeed built on the site of Little Pete’s? No way.
“Philadelphia is a city kind of like parts of Boston and parts of New York, it’s a city with grudges. I’m not going to stay in a hotel that destroys a thing I love.”