When I was growing up in Pampa, Texas in the 1940’s, I always looked forward to stopping by The Coney Island Cafe. It sat next to the 1st National Bank on our main street called Cuyler Street.
It was owned by a couple of brothers named Gikas, who were from Greece. In the original cafe, the interior was quite different. For example, on one side were many glass cases with lots of deli meats for all kinds of sandwiches.
The large grill was on the back wall and was used for hamburgers and hot-dogs with a pot holding their homemade chili. There were lots of tables and chairs but no counter with stools.
Then in 1948, it burned to the ground and so they moved around the corner to their present location on Foster Street. That was 70 years ago and today its legacy is still great.
You won’t find this unique character for hot-dogs and “atmosphere” any place else in west Texas. One of the really neat things to watch while you were standing in line to get seated, was Ted or John going full blast making those “dogs”. They had placed the big grill in the very front which was enclosed with glass so you could watch them make those coneys!
The waitress took your order without writing it down. Then she yelled it out to the cooks/owners in what I call”code!” Yep, I’m serious ... check this out, “I need a 3 on 2, a 2 on I, with chili, cut the O’s, 2 chips, a big red.” The owners, Johnny and Ted could take these orders from four female waitresses in the noon rush hour and never make a mistake. When it was delivered to your table, she would stand there and figure in her head what each one at your table owed. All the waitresses were categorically good at this!
Ted and John Gikas were art lovers. They presented fine art from their collections in their wonderful cafe. The art was just a part of their collection that was at their homes, which remained in the family. The cafe was sold to a former employee who stopped making the great pies and started watering down the chili.
This caused her to lose most of her customers and she finally sold it to a young couple. They brought The Coney Island Cafe back to what it was in the good ol’ days, plus the interior got a fresh coat of paint!
Well sir, The Coney Island is again famous and people from all over, especially us folks who grew up and left to seek our fortune, always visit our favorite place when in Pampa, Texas ... The Coney Island! Just ask anyone! And Now You Know!
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