Iconic Denver restaurateur Pete Contos died on Sunday, May 12.

Longtime Denver restaurant owner Pete Contos passed away this last Sunday at 85 years old. The owner of Pete’s Kitchen on Colfax and five other Denver area restaurants was a staple in the restaurant scene since 1955, when he came here from Greece.

Starting out making $10 a week as a dishwasher and busboy in downtown Denver, Contos worked his way up the ranks. Contos gave it his all, eventually owning his first business. He bought the Satire Lounge with a partner in 1962, then ended up buying the partner out. Contos then purchased the space next door, where he opened the Colfax landmark, Pete’s Kitchen.

For the past 30 years, Pete’s Kitchen has served customers 24 hours a day, 7 days a week under its famous neon sign.  

A devoted family man Contos had met his wife Elizabeth on a blind date, and the two would later marry and raise a family together. In addition to Pete's Kitchen, Contos was also the owner of Pete’s Greek Town, Pete’s University Café, Pete’s Central One, and Pete’s Gyros Place. 

Inducted into the Food Service Hall of Fame in 2006, Contos was known for helping others and giving back to the Denver community, a place he considered his home. A plaque dedicated to Contos at his induction described his giving ways and dedication to those he loved:

“Over the years, he has quietly lent a helping hand to people in need, whether it’s paying medical bills, lending money to buy homes or financing an education. He is known to help former employees to start their own business and regularly does such humanitarian deeds as serving holiday dinners to the elderly and neighborhood people.”

Contos' family released the following statement regarding his death:

"It is with a heavy heart that we share the loss of our beloved husband, father, grandfather and friend Pete Contos.

Pete was a pillar of strength and optimism in the Denver community, recognizing opportunity where others missed it and investing with blood, sweat, tears and laughter into his life work. The restaurant community in Denver would not be what it is today, and none of us would be who we are today, were it not for the love, passion and dedication that Pete brought with him every day.

We want to thank our amazing community for the outpouring of thoughts, prayers and words of kindness as we process our sadness and celebrate the life of this amazing man. We know that his difference is felt across Denver, and his legacy lives on in his family, his friends, and the iconic establishments which bear his name.

Pete will be missed, but he will not be forgotten."

Mayor Hancock also tweeted that Contos was an "institution" and praised the restauranteur.

Funeral services have not been announced yet.

We at OCN are saddened to have lost such a culinary visionary and send our condolences to the Contos family.