I think the first time I saw the place it was in a music video back when MTV still aired such things. It was just one of those places that seemed tacky enough to be interesting while still being quality. Two years ago I finally made it while in LA filming America the Strange part one and it exceeded my expectations.
It starts in 1939 with his parents. Broke and out of work, they borrowed $50 for a hot dog cart that they parked on the corner of Melrose and La Brea. A lot of happy customers and a few years later they built the brick and mortar building that’s still the base of operations.
Now, I’ll be the first to admit, I didn’t actually think that Richard Pink, current president and son of the founders would do the interview and so I didn’t really have my research done. I’d seen that they were finally reopening for the first time since March so I reached out. Much to my surprise, he was a lot cooler than I was expecting and reminded me that you can in fact be both successful and ethical in this industry, yes folks, it’s possible….
CulinaryAnarchy: So you’ve been around since 1939, why have you guys never franchised?
Richard Pink: We’ll we did, sorta. We have licenses at several other locations but our standards are much much higher than your typical franchise. We wanted to guarantee that the level of quality we set for the brand would not be compromised or diluted.
CA: So in your opinion, what’s the key to earning repeat business?
RP: In my opinion it’s really a combination of factors. Mainly I would say service and atmosphere pared with great food. I like places that are unique and that have a bit of history.
CA: So how do you keep people’s attention and stay in the eye of the public?
RP: We try to do as much charity work in the community as possible. We really love our community and by supporting them, they support us. We pass out a few hot dogs and feed some people and end up on the news and it’s much better marketing than any radio jingle.
CA: So what is your favorite local spot to dine at when we’re not dealing with a pandemic?
RP: It’s hard to say given that we’re in LA and have so many amazing places. One that my wife and I really love is Republique on La Brea. The food and atmosphere are always fantastic and we’ve taken friends there numerous times and never had a bad experience.
CA: As a restaurant owner, what’s the biggest compliment that you can receive from a guest?
RP: Easy, it’s “We love your staff!”. I enjoy hearing that people like the food and that’s great but when people tell me how much they love my staff, it means that I’m doing my job as an Owner to take care of them. This is also why I have people who have worked for me for over two decades and they’re what makes the place so special.
CA: So do you eat hot dogs when you travel? Do you ever check out the competition so to speak?
RP : Oh of course I do. I’m always keeping an eye out for new flavors and ideas. I love to know what’s going on and be aware of all the fun new innovations in food in general. And if I see someone doing something I think is interesting, we try it out and see if we can make it work. There are plenty of places that do the same thing with our stuff and it’s fine, there’s enough to go around for everyone.
CA: So what’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever seen happen in the restaurant?
RP : Probably seeing Brad Pitt get kidnapped for Jackass. It scared a lot of people and then he came back and explained everything.
CA: What do you wish customers knew prior to visiting your restaurant.
RP: I’d like them to take a minute to look at our website and get to know a bit more about the history of the place and get a few ideas for what they’d like to try?
CA: So what’s your idea of the perfect hot dog?
RP: A nice 9 inch all beef dog that hangs over the bun with chili, cheddar and onions.