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National

7 Decades Of Pete's Famous Hot Dogs

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

You can never tell what turns life takes. A Birmingham man named Pete Koutroulakis won $300 in 1939 playing pinochle at the Greek Club here and used his winnings to open up a hot dog, stand 7 feet long, 20 feet wide. It became successful. Pete took a four-month trip to visit his aging father in Greece in 1948, leaving his nephew Gus to run the family business while he was away. But Pete Koutroulakis had a heart attack on his trip. Nephew Gus took over Pete's Famous, as the red neon sign above called the stand, and worked there practically every day for the rest of his life until Gus Koutroulakis has died in 2005.

He once told the Southern Foodways Alliance, there's something about these hot dogs. I mean, you can take a hot dog and wrap it up and put it in a sack and go out there and eat it. It doesn't taste the same as it does when it's in here. The preacher said it's something in these walls that says it makes it taste like that. The red neon Pete's Famous sign is in a Birmingham museum. Gus's secret sauce survives only in memory. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.