Frank's Pete Poulos Retires
Jim McCarty takes over the grill
by Sally Mitani
Pete Poulos is fine, says daughter-in-law Sharon Poulos, but he's enjoying a well-deserved retirement after more than forty years of flipping burgers at Frank's Restaurant. The diner is named for Pete's brother-in-law, his original partner, but Poulos has been sole owner for nearly all of its history, a lot of which is revealed through newspaper clippings and photos tacked to a couple of walls. For the price of a plate of eggs, you can read for yourself how Pete used to cook for the U-M football team.
Jim McCarty, brother of longtime weekend waitress Paula Hall, took Pete's place at the grill. Looking like he was born with a spatula in his hand, McCarty gracefully swoops three still-quivering omelets onto plates. Omelet connoisseurs might want to note that he seems to favor an elegant long, slim shape.
Pete had to stop cracking eggs after he cracked a few vertebrae in his neck last year, and knew it was time to sell the small, homey diner next to Tower Plaza. Sharon, who has also worked at Frank's for years, tries to elaborate on Pete's health, choosing her words carefully. The double whammy of the death of Charlene--Pete's wife of over fifty years--in 2010, from a sudden-onset, rare leukemia, followed by his own neck injury, took its toll, so "fine" is a relative term. But asked if he's in a wheelchair, she answers quickly: "Oh no! Nothing like that! He just has to be careful."
And just then, a wheelchair does roll up, and Neil Marcus, who lives nearby and is a regular customer at Frank's, introduces himself. Politely but firmly, Marcus makes it known (sometimes speaking through his personal assistant Jasmine) that were Pete in a wheelchair, it would not be the end of the world. Marcus points to the bulletin board, where he's also featured: in a snapshot with George Clooney on the set of ER. Marcus, a poet, playwright, and disability-rights advocate, was in a 1998 episode of
the long-running hospital drama playing a hit-and-run victim whose cerebral palsy complicates the diagnosis. Now he lives in Ann Arbor with partner Petra Kuppers, a U-M English professor, who also writes about disability culture.
Pete has sold the business, and new owner Tony Zervogiannis took over October 1. Reportedly, Zervogiannis knows a lot of the appeal of Frank's lies in its simplicity, and he'll be making few changes: a few subs got added to the menu, as did dinner hours on Fridays and Saturdays. New flooring is under discussion.
Frank's Restaurant, 334 Maynard, 761-5699. Mon.-Thurs. 7:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m., Fri. & Sat. 7:30 a.m.-8 p.m., Sun. 9 a.m.-8 p.m. www.facebook.com/pages/Franks-Restaurant
[Originally published in November, 2013.]