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Oral Histories

The SFA oral history program documents life stories from the American South. Collecting these stories, we honor the people whose labor defines the region. If you would like to contribute to SFA’s oral history collections, please send your ideas for oral history along with your CV or Resume and a portfolio of prior oral history work to

< Back to Oral History project: Greek Restaurateurs in Birmingham


Gus Koutroulakis

Birmingham legend, Gus Koutroulakis, has been slinging hot dogs from the same tiny stand in downtown Birmingham, Pete’s Famous, since 1948. According to Gus, his Uncle Pete and a buddy bought the place in 1939 with money they won in a Pinochle game. Pete renamed the place after his self-proclaimed famous dogs when he bought out his business partner in 1946. That same year, Pete installed the colorful neon sign that still lights up 2nd Avenue.

Gus still makes his dogs the same way his uncle did: “all the way” with mustard, kraut, and special sauce. Or, you can order a “special,” with a beef topping that’s—be careful—not chili. The classic sauce is unique to Birmingham and certainly a Greek addition to classic take-away fare. No one’s quite sure who came up with it, but variations on that same sauce can be found all over town. A visit to Pete’s Famous is quite an experience, so when you visit, spend some time taking in Gus’s hot dog wisdom and learning interesting tidbits from loyal customers, while downing a few of what are arguably the most famous dogs in Birmingham. The record, by the way, is eighteen hot dogs eaten in one visit.

*It is with great sadness that the SFA shares news that Gus Koutroulakis passed away on April 5, 2011. Pete’s Famous closed for good soon after. But the neon sign was saved. It now resides at the Barber Motorsports Museum in Birmingham.

Date of interview:
2004-03-08 15:00

Amy Evans

Amy Evans

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The Southern Foodways Alliance drives a more progressive future by leading conversations that challenge existing constructs, shape perspectives, and foster meaningful discussions. We reconsider the past with research, scrutiny, and documentation.


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