PATERSON, NJ — Some 30 cars filled to capacity the two parking lots that surround Libby’s Lunch on McBride Avenue.
Word was out Monday evening that Libby’s Lunch — a restaurant long known for its chili dogs — would be closed permanently by the end of the week. Customers had come for one last chance to say goodbye to Libby’s.
“The food is what makes it — the sauce,” said Mike Torres, 45, a Paterson native who was visiting his home state from Florida. “Without the sauce you don’t have a Libby’s hotdog.”
Torres, who had returned to New Jersey to attend to family matters, said he’d been coming to the restaurant since he was old enough to know what Libby’s was. “It’s sad to see it go.”
Torres pointed to the Hot Grill in nearby Clifton and the Getty Avenue Grill, a now-closed establishment that once operated on Crooks Avenue in Paterson, as among the other places one might find a good chili dog. But the former Paterson police officer added, “To me, nothing beats Libby’s.”
Libby’s Lunch is less than a block away from the Great Falls National Historical Park. A framed newspaper clipping from The New York Times seen hanging inside of the restaurant notes the nearby historic landmark.
Mary Ann Allen of Verona brought her daughter and son to Libby’s. The family ordered hot dogs, fries and sodas.
“I think that’s all we’ve ever ordered here,” said Allen, 61. “I don’t think we’ve ever ordered anything else.”
Allen also confirmed reports of Libby’s legendary chili sauce.
“We moved to Kansas for a while and when my parents came out to visit us, they would stop here to get a quart of the sauce to bring out there for us,” Allen said.
An essay on the “History of the Hot Texas Wiener” posted to the Library of Congress’s website says that William Pappas opened Libby’s under the name “Libby’s Hot Grill” in 1936, and that the establishment became successful in part because of its close proximity to workers in Paterson’s then textile mills.
In its heyday, Libby’s employed over 30 people, according to the history.
Although most known for the hot dogs, Libby’s menus did have other items.
Carol Ortiz, 19, who came with her brother Raymond, 11, on Monday said she was disappointed that Libby’s would be shutting down.
“I love the gyros,” Ortiz said.
Libby’s Lunch served its last meals Thursday.
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