Turk File

Pete's returns to Papa Preston

by Christiaan Mader

After 20 years on the sideline, Pete's founder Preston Guidry has bought back into the burger game.

In case you hadn't noticed, Johnston Street staple sports bar and grill Pete's has been closed since November. According to project manager Danny Guidry, son of original owner Preston Guidry, Preston will re-assume day-to-day operational management of the trans-generational burger bar for the first time in more than 20 years. Set to reopen early this summer, the house the Big Pete built has taken on an interior facelift with new combination wood and carpet flooring and an open concept horseshoe bar.

Still under renovation, Pete's remains cozy and familiar. With lights on and sunlight blasting through the front windows, the digs feel fresher. A new line of "Louisiana Legends" sports memorabilia hangs over freshly stained wooden booths (same old booths, brand new stain) deifying Lafayette sport legends like Jake Delhomme, Brian Mitchell and Yvette Girouard. The dining room floor is conspicuously less cluttered by arcade game consoles. Don't worry, "kids," they've just been relocated to a dedicated interior nook to make for better foot traffic flow. The look is shy of a makeover, but the results are remarkably de-grimed.

"We want Pete's to be a place that's casual enough and fun enough that kids and grandparents are comfortable here," Danny Guidry says. "We want to be your neighborhood eatery."

Preston Guidry opened Pete's with his brother, Peter Guidry, the eponymous Uncle Pete (Uncle Pete's was the restaurant's first name), in 1968. Originally headquartered in what is now The Bulldog Sports and Imports on General Mouton near the UL campus, a combination of video poker and zesty burgers multiplied the grill into a locally operated chain, with locations in north Lafayette, on Pinhook Road (now Blue Dog Cafe) and the McKinley Street Strip. The Johnston Street location, the last remaining of the bunch, has long been out of the day-to-day operating hands of the founders.

Danny Guidry inside Pete's during renovations

Former Ragin Cajun baseball standout Mark Hutchinson took over Pete's from the late Nelson Stokely in 2005, opting not to renew his lease for 2015 and selling the business back to Preston Guidry.

Over the years owners outside of the Guidry family made changes to the restaurant's menu without straying from the humble burger and fry roots of the original Uncle Pete's. While the Guidrys did not own the restaurant, they retained ownership of the building, and sold the restaurant to family friends like Stokely and Hutchinson. Still, according to Danny Guidry, the menu grew to a size that made consistent preparation and execution difficult to maintain through a constant turnover of cooks.

When Pete's reopens this summer, menu favorites like the Big Pete and Little Pete burgers, fried pickles and the iconic home-style chips will return but will be prepared in a newly renovated kitchen, complete with updated fry and grilling equipment.

It's a fresh look for a familiar place.