"Peter's Grill has led a pretty placid life since setting up shop on 9th Street in the early '30s," wrote Taste editor Peggy Katalinich in October 1976. "Except for the shooting."

It seems a waitress once brushed up against a coat rack, and a loaded derringer tucked inside a pocket went off and shot her in the leg. "She still has the bullet, too," said Peter's owner Ed Atcas. "She's no longer here; maybe that was the turning point."

In the pre-food court era that was the mid-1970s, Peter's routinely fed 500 customers during a busy lunch rush, each meal served with a side of history (see the full text at www.startribune.com/tabletalk). For example, head waitress Josephine Weatherly started working at the restaurant in 1933, three years after Atcas' father, Peter, opened the doors.

Regular customers -- droves of them -- counted their relationship with Peter's by the decade. Sisters Evelyn Theis and Lois Orth left their jobs next door at Young Quinlan (where they operated the store's elevators) every weekday at 11 a.m. for lunch; Theis was a 16-year Peter's vet, Orth's record was four years longer. Bruce Just had been camping out at the restaurant's rear counter since 1953, "and not just because his brother Bill is head chef," wrote Katalinich. The kitchen's fabled pies -- baker Robert Richard produced 30 a day, most of them Peter's signature green apple pie -- were a chief draw. "The best pie in the United States is right here; nobody beats this pie," said Just.

Atcas didn't share the pie recipe -- trade secrets, right? -- but he did offer Taste readers an easy-to-make cake, one that mirrors the restaurant's philosophy. "Good, basic home-cooking, the style we've always cooked," Atcas said.

That's still true today. The restaurant said goodbye to its 9th Street address in 1985 (the site is now a parking lot) and has been at its current location at 8th Street and 2nd Avenue since 1991. Look for owner Peter Atsidakos. He's Peter's nephew, and he carefully presides over his uncle's legacy, one slice of pie at a time. RICK NELSON