Places in Time
‘Hamburger Pete’s’ a special place on Waco square
By Terri Jo Ryan, Waco Tribune-Herald
Oct. 8, 2006
You'd expect a restaurateur to say this, but when pizza proprietor and educator Mary Duty envisions Waco history, she sees it in terms of restaurants, taverns and tales swapped over bowls of soup, mugs of beer and plates of Mexican food.
"Restaurants kind of tell the story of a town," she said. "I mean, just look at Waco's famous Klaras family.”
Pete Klaras was a Greek immigrant who had this popular cafe on the Square and fed many Americans through the Depression. The story is he kept a bowl of soup on at all times."
To ensure down-on-their-luck customers retained their pride, they were invited to have a bowl of soup and sign a ledger agreeing to pay for it at some later date, though Klaras reportedly never expected most to follow through as hard times dragged on.
Greek natives Pete Klaras and his brother built one of the many successful businesses operated by immigrants on Waco's famous downtown square. Klaras began with a hamburger stand in 1904 which expanded into Pete's Caffe; and eventually grew into a landmark.
Both city and country people frequented Pete's, which sold 10-cent hamburgers and 15-cent fish sandwiches. The café remained open until 1968 when it was shuttered during federal Urban Renewal. Pete's Café outlived its owner by six years. When Pete Klaras died in 1962, his partner and nephew Jim Klaras ran the eatery.
Many local restaurants have long histories.
George's Restaurant, for instance, "has probably served every Baylor student who ever lived in this town since the 1930s."
And customers of Casa de Castillo might be surprised to learn the family operated an Italian restaurant before serving up Mexican fare.
Poppa Rollos Pizza has plenty of history on its premises, including the old bar that once served Pete Klaras' customers. Duty says the bar — now in the back of her pizza place — was reportedly once part of Waco's Mirror Saloon. Mary's husband, Roland, bought the bar for $550 in 1969.
"Imagine all the stories that bar could tell," she said. "That bar's been downtown in one place or another since the 1870s."
For more information, contact: John Young • Waco Tribune-Herald •