Wednesday, June 16, 2010

First Lady's LA Foodie Tour: Michelle Obama Visits The Legendary Pink's

Interview: No photos, please, but Pink's co-owner dishes all the details....
Los Angeles, CA: Restaurateur Gloria Pink said she was stunned when Secret Service agents showed up at her famous eatery, Pink's Hot Dog Stand, on Tuesday, and asked if it would be all right if First Lady Michelle Obama and her vacation party came for lunch. Of course it was all right, Pink said. By 1:30, Mrs. Obama, her mother, Marian Robinson, daughters Malia and Sasha, and fourteen members of the First Lady's entourage were seated around four picnic tables on the back patio of the legendary hotdoggery.

"It was very moving and touching to have them here," Pink said. "It's the honor of a lifetime."

It's also the first official sighting of Mrs. Robinson since the girls-only Obama family vacation started on Sunday evening.

Pink's, founded in 1939 by Paul and Betty Pink, is currently celebrating its 70th anniversary, and is a hotpot for celebrities, as well as regular ol' citizens who stand in lines that are often a block long to order the chili cheese dogs and chili cheese fries--as well as all kinds of other special hot dog creations. There are hundreds of celeb photos on the walls of the restaurant, all autographed with words of praise for Pink's. But for Gloria Pink, Mrs. Obama's visit was particularly special.

"No one can top the president's wife," Pink said. She added that she wasn't nervous, just "stunned, but in a good way," because "The First Lady has this persona of easy, charismatic and casual."

The orders...
For the visit, Pink rearranged the usual protocol for patrons, who typically stand at a window and place their order, then stand and wait to receive their food. Instead, one of the members of Mrs. Obama's Secret Service detail circled menu items and presented it to Pink, who then delivered it, with the help of sister in law and co-owner Beverly Pink Wolf, to the Obama party, on the patio.

The order was very large, but Pink remembered Mrs. Obama's, of course.

The First Lady had a mild polish hot dog, topped with grilled onions, sliced jalapenos, yellow mustard and green relish. Malia and Sasha went for far simpler fare: Each had a beef stretch hot dog with ketchup. One iconoclast in Mrs. Obama's group ordered the Martha Stewart Dog, which has relish, chopped tomatoes, sour cream, sauerkraut, and chopped bacon, Pink said, but she wasn't sure who ate it. The rest of the order was the legendary chili cheese dogs, which are topped with mustard, raw white onions, and chili cheese. Fries, with sides of sides of BBQ sauce and ranch dressing, chili cheese fries, and onion rings were also ordered.

"The Secret Service were very, very, happy," Pink said. Lunch was paid for by an agent with cash; the restaurant doesn't take credit cards, and Pink added that she honestly couldn't remember the total price of the order. (Photo, above, is the most recent photo of the eatery that is on the Pink's website)

Despite the fact that the restaurant was as busy as usual, with the outdoor areas filled and a line of people waiting to order, no one approached the Obama party, Pink noted.

"They said they're on vacation, so everybody respected that," Pink said, and added that people were asked not to take photos, including herself. She did shake hands with Mrs. Obama, however, as did her sister-in-law. Mrs. Obama she said, more than once, was "very very gracious."

"They thanked us, said they had a good time, and that it was a great summer experience," Pink said. And she added again that Mrs. Obama was very gracious. "It was fun to personally serve them." Pink dubbed Malia and Sasha "as cute as can be."

Pink said she's not quite sure sure how the Obama party chose her restaurant. "We're part of the fabric of LA life, we're called THE Hollywood hot dog, and listed in all the guides," Pink said. "Lots of people say Pink's is one of those places you have to go to, so maybe they read about us."

Patrons were as happy about the Obama visit as Pink, who said that the crowd on the patio stood up and applauded as Mrs. Obama exited with her party out of the back, which leads to a parking area and an alley, where the motorcade awaited.

"We had people saying we've been meaning to come to Pink's for a couple of weeks, and this is our lucky day," Pink said, and added that it was also pure luck that she was on the premises of her restaurant, which is on La Brea Avenue in Los Angeles, less than half a block from where Mrs. Obama enjoyed dinner last night, at Osteria Mozza.

"We're open from 9:30 AM to 2:30 AM, and I'm in and out all day," Pink said. "I just happened to be there."

Pink's is at 709 North La Brea Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90038-3338. Phone: (323) 931-4223.

*While in Los Angeles, Mrs. Obama and her vacay party also had dinner at Lucques. On Sunday, before arriving in Los Angeles, Mrs. Obama visited Camp Pendelton.