'It's not the same without him here:' Pete's Famous Hot Dogs closing after 36 years
For 36 years, hungry travelers have pulled off at Pete's Famous Hot Dogs and Country Restaurant in Lily Lake to indulge in hot dogs and hand-cut fries.
It has a prime location, on the southwest corner of routes 47 and 64, in a semirural part of Kane County where places to eat are few and far between.
But this weekend will probably be the last for its fans. It's closing, manager Terese Taschetta has announced.
"It's very heartbreaking," Taschetta said Friday.
Owner Pete Prevenas, 79, has had a multitude of health problems since breaking a hip a little over a year ago, Taschetta said. The two had worked side-by-side since he hired her 22 years ago when she came in for a hot dog.
"I just could never leave," Taschetta said.
But between Prevenas' absence and the extra stress of running the business during the COVID-19 pandemic, Taschetta and the Prevenas family decided it was time to close.
"It's not the same without him here," Taschetta said.
The restaurant -- which also served breakfast and sold his custom hot sauce -- was Prevenas' life. When asked where he lived, Prevenas would say he slept in Sycamore but lived at the restaurant.
In a 2003 interview with the Daily Herald, Prevenas said the "famous" part of the name was his wife Carol's idea.
The former commodities trader opened it with a pop-up camper and a grill in 1985.
It had a long menu that included more than 10 versions of hot dogs and a dozen types of hamburgers, including a gyro/burger made with beef, lamb and red sauce.
Truck drivers were fans, with many giving Prevenas baseball caps, some of which he displayed on a wall.
Customers also got a side of politics with their meals from the proudly patriotic Prevenas. Cartoons and other items posted proclaimed his dissatisfaction with certain politicians. He also used a small billboard to the south of the restaurant to proclaim his views. For years it read "Get US Out! of the U.N."
"It's there because I think the U.N. (United Nations) is the worst thing in this country," Prevenas said in 2003. "They intrude upon us, taking our sovereignty. I don't like it. I like to rely on our own Constitution, not take orders from someone in a Third World country that we are supporting. We have circled our wagons here."
"He's been like that from Day 1," Taschetta said. "He says how it is. People would come in just to hear him."
Taschetta said the restaurant will close when it runs out of food, which she expects will happen next week, given how many people are coming by to say goodbye.
Meanwhile, Prevenas' son Patrick has started a GoFundMe.com campaign to raise money for costs associated with shuttering the restaurant, and for his parents' medical bills.