THE LITTLE HOT DOG STAND THAT COULD
For anyone in Los Angeles with a hankering for a tasty hot dog, no matter what time of day, there’s only was destination that races to mind and that’s Pink’s, a local dining favorite since 1939. Famished eaters will wait in line for an hour to get their fill of a variety of mouthwatering hot dogs (hamburgers too).
Founded on the corner of La Brea and Melrose Avenues as a large-wheeled pushcart by Paul Pink, the depression era prices garnered you a chilidog complete with a large bun, oversized hot dog, mustard, onions and thick chili for 10 cents.
In 1946, Pink and his wife Betty opened a proper restaurant if you will, the tiny structure that still stands in the same location today. Now run by the Pink children, Beverly Pink Wolfe, Richard Pink and his wife Gloria Pink, Pink’s has always been a family affair.
“Our parents started Pink’s in 1939 with a pushcart,” Beverly Pink-Wolfe says. “They were happy with it just as a mom and pop business but through the years we have expanded.”
Serving your basic, hearty comfort food, locals immediately gravitated to Pink’s, although its founders believed their flower shop, which opened in 1948 next door, would be the family’s real means of support.
“Their background was in flowers,” Richard Pink points out. “That was their main business. They bought the pushcart because they were out of work.”
The flower shop lasted until 1958 when the Pinks then converted the space into a clothing store that remained open until they retired in 1961. But through the years, Pink’s was a constant neighborhood favorite that really solidified a relationship with the community. Indeed, Pink’s is part of the culture and fabric of the neighborhood.”
“When Pink’s first opened, it was just a hot dog, hamburger and tamale on the menu,” Gloria Pink adds. “Then Richard got really creative and expanded the menu because that would give people more reasons to keep coming back. Now we have about 25 different kinds of hot dogs. The lines have gotten longer and longer but people don’t mind at all, they think of it as part of the experience. In L.A., you don’t talk to strangers very often, and here you have that 30-minute or 40-minute or longer wait and people develop a relationship.”
Some of the creative and one-of-a-kind hot dogs on the menu include the Mulholland Drive Dog, Lord of the Rings Dog, Harry Potter Dog, as well as creations by the likes of Rosie O’Donnell, Huell Howser and Martha Stewart. Favorites include the Bacon Chili Cheese Dog; Turkey with Sauerkraut and Mustard; Swiss Dog; and Coleslaw Dog. And then there’s the Dudamel Dog, named after conductor Gustavo Dudamel that the Pinks point out as their strangest menu item. Consisting of a stretch hot dog, guacamole, American and Swiss cheese, fajitasmix, and jalapeno slices topped with tortilla chips, the spicy dog was even featured on “60 Minutes.”
“People come to Pink’s because the food tastes great,” Gloria Pinks points out, “and it may be a splurge to have the Bacon Burrito Dog or the Three Dog Night but they say they’ll spend 30 extra minutes on the treadmill because it’s worth it. Everything in moderation.”
With additional locations at City Walk, LAX, Las Vegas, San Diego, and the Cedar Point Amusement Park in Sandusky, Ohio opening May 15, the mighty, little stand on La Brea is special to the Pinks.
“This one is near and dear,” Richard Pinks says. “The fact of the matter is people want to license us because this one is so successful. This one has to stay successful.”
Over the years, countless celebrities have become regulars at Pink’s. Orson Welles still holds the record for the most hot dogs eaten in one sitting with 18. Each member of the Pink family has his and her own favorite memory. For Gloria Pink, it’s making friends with composer Bill Conti, a longtime customer.
Beverly Pink-Wolfe recalls the time Michelle Obama came by.
“She came with her two daughters and her mother and it was very exciting,” Pink-Wolfe recalls. “She walked in and sat down and we served her. No one approached her, which was very nice, and when she was ready to leave everyone got up and clapped.”
With no signs of slowing down, Pink’s aims to be a landmark satisfying local and tourist appetites for as long as possible.
“I want people to take away the experience of great food so they want to come back, with friendly service with a smile that can’t be duplicated somewhere else,” Richard Pinks says.
Pink’s is located at 709 N La Brea Ave. Hours: Open everyday at 9:30 a.m. Sunday through Thursday until 2 a.m.; Friday and Saturday until 3 a.m. Call 323-931-4223.
Photos & Review by: Jose Martinez