Northeastern University’s very popular fast-food eatery, Chicken Lou’s will close this spring after 30 years on the Boston campus. It began with canteen trucks, which owner Lou Ferretti offered in the Northeastern University area back in 1978 while his son David was attending Northeastern. In 1990, the more permanent structure was born and have been serving the Boston community ever since. Lou passed away in 2000, passing the Chicken Lou’s legacy to his family.
“We’re going to be open through April 30, which will coincide with the end of the term. It’s been a fun thing. It still is a fun thing, but it’s also not an easy job”, says Dave Ferretti, the second-generation owner.
Lou Ferretti, known as Hot Dog Louie, established the rectangular, shoe-boxy storefront on Forsythe Street in 1990. The place still remains smaller than the typical diner, with no room indoors for seating. You can enter from the right, grab yourself a soft drink from one of the two upright coolers, and choose from the expansive menu that hovers like a dirigible over the crowded counter. Listening to the endless give-and-take of Ferretti as he takes your order, one can breathe in the mélange of smells like your own emerging sandwich blends together with the warmly-scented ghosts of so many others. Ferretti graduated from Northeastern in 1982. He had dreams of working for NASA but took over the restaurant from his father in 1995. A photo of Lou, enlarged for his funeral in 2000, is among the treasures that Ferretti plans to salvage in April.
Reactions to the announcement of its closing came as a surprise to Ferretti. In addition to the social and traditional media coverage, Chicken Lou’s was overrun with sentimentally ravenous customers. For the next several weeks, it was forced to close early because the food stocks were sold out by mid-afternoon. Ferretti believes that they had an average of 300 orders per day. Which amounts to 3 million sandwiches, salads, and sides that their family has served to generations of Northeastern customers.
Why stop now, when the demand is as high as ever? To this question, Ferretti replies, “It’s a quality-of-life thing. We never got rich over at Northeastern, but we never wanted for anything, either.”
Shahjadi Jemim Rahman