Last Call at Libby’s

Libby's street sign

They weren’t putting toddlers in car sets in the 1950’s, but if they were I would have had my first Libby’s hot dog in a car seat. As it was, my dad put my in the back seat and parked across the street from what at the time was a roadside hot dog stand. He got out, secured the wieners, and we all ate them in the car.

Libby’s Lunch on McBride Avenue in Paterson, N.J., across from the Great Falls National Historic Park, closed on Thursday. It had been in business since 1936, originally achieving success by serving the thousands of employees of the textile mills and other factories built around the falls. The roadside stand was later replaced by a modest diner-type building with a lunch counter and booths. The property and building were leased from the city of Paterson. That lease expired on July 31 and was not renewed. Reportedly they owed the city $93,000 in rent.

What Libby’s was famous for is the Hot Texas Weiner. A deep-fried crispy hot dog adorned with mustard, chopped onions and chile sauce, it is enormously popular in the Paterson/Passaic/Clifton area of northern New Jersey and virtually nowhere else. 

The Hot Texas Weiner was invented in Paterson. According to the Library Congress’ “Brief History of the Hot Texas Weiner:” it “was invented around 1924 by ‘an old Greek gentleman’ who owned a hot dog ‘stand’ on Paterson Street in downtown Paterson. This gentleman was experimenting with various chili-type sauces to serve on his hot dogs, and apparently drew upon his own culinary heritage for the first Hot Texas Wiener chili-sauce recipe.” (No word on the ‘old gentleman’s’ name.)

William Pappas had worked at that hot dog stand and in 1936 he struck out on his own, founding LIbby’s. In 1949, one of Libby’s employees, Paul Agresti, left and started the Falls View Grill just around corner and down the street a bit. When I was growing up you were either a Libby’s guy or a Falls View guy. My family was committed to the former. Falls View went under in the late 80’s. That site is now sadly a Burger King. 

Libby’s last day looked like this:

You might think that Libby’s closure will mean a healthier diet for me. Nope. I’ll just be doubling down on my other favorite.

The Hot Grill, Clifton, NJ
This one was founded by another Greek immigrant who started as the French Fry guy at Falls View
This entry was posted in Growing Up in the 50s and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to Last Call at Libby’s

  1. Jina Bazzar says:

    It’s nostalgic when you can walk by a place and tell your kids – “this is where me and your uncles came when young.”
    It’s sad when places like that close forever. I have many memories from places in my youth that are no long in business.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. KFBuchsbaum says:

    A couple of years ago I was with my husband back in NJ for his high school reunion. There were crowds of people on buses taking NJ hot dog tours; apparently there were several. I never knew….

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I’m always saddened when our years-old businesses have to close their doors to their customers.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Bumba says:

    I must say that I “relished” this report. I grew up on hot dogs too. I’m a mustard and sauerkraut guy myself. Nowadays, I barely eat them anymore, living as I am in a West coast, politically correct,”healthy” environment.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Bumba says:

    True. But I bet it tasted good.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. How sad…used to have lunch there when visiting the Falls.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Ken Dowell says:

    I ended most trips to the falls there as well.

    Like

  8. Pam Lazos says:

    Breaking from the tradition of “my people” I did not go into the diner business, but gosh, I wish I had one of those hotdogs right now, Ken. Your description made my mouth water! ;0)

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Donna Janke says:

    It’s always sad when an institution like Libby’s closes.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Phil Strawn says:

    I would love one of those dogs. I had no idea that NJ was famous for Hot Dogs. I grew up in Fort Worth, TX, in the 50s, and most of the places I had BBQ are now gone, so it’s always a sad day when an iconic business closes. Texas Wieners. Who knew.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Pingback: Lifesytle/food: Last Call at Libby’s — off the leash – THE URBAN FISHING POLE: CIGAR BLOGGER

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