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Dec
30

YEAR IN REVIEW: Legendary Pink’s hot dogs debuts at King of Prussia Mall

December 30, 2019

Source, The Times Herald, Gary Puleo

UPPER MERION — A Hollywood legend since 1939 got its start as a King of Prussia legend in the making in 2019.

Pink’s Hot Dogs, a Hollywood icon that has pleased the palates of countless famous fans — many of whom are featured in the gallery of photos decorating the walls of the original location on North La Brea Avenue, Los Angeles — debuted in the Savor food court at King of Prussia Mall in February.

Mall manager Bob Hart emceed the grand opening, which included an appearance by Pink’s owners Richard and Gloria Pink.

“It’s been over two years since we completed this expansion connecting the Plaza to the Court, adding 55 stores, and Pink’s Hot Dogs is the latest addition,” Hart said.

“Pink’s opened its first restaurant in 1939 in Hollywood, California. It’s been family owned and operated ever since. They’re very selective on where they go and we’re honored that that they’ve selected King of Prussia Mall as one of their locations,” noted Hart, who proceeded to craft Pink’s iconic Chili Cheese Dog, assisted down the line by Eric Goldstein of KOP-BID, Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce president Ryan Rosenbaum and completed by Richard Pink, whose parents Paul and Betty launched “the little hot dog stand that could”

“A lot of people from Philadelphia come to L.A. and want to see what Hollywood is all about, and we’re a Hollywood Legend since 1939,” noted Richard Pink, taking a seat as the crowd lined up for free hot dogs.

Typically, Pink’s guests place their order from a menu of about 20 hot dog options and an array of toppings, on either the “stretch” dog or Polish dog or burgers, and then choose from 40 seats in the setting that was formerly home to The Fat Ham, or communal seating in the food court area.

“A lot of movie stars would put their pictures up on the walls when they were just wannabes, hoping a producer would discover them. And that’s how we got the celebrity wall started. Michael J. Fox claimed that his office was at Pink’s; he got the call for Family Ties on our public phone,” explained Pink, who said that Simon Malls initiated Pink’s presence in King of Prussia.

“They were looking for something unique that’s not in every mall. Something iconic. David Simon actually visited Pink’s a few times when he was growing up. He always heard about the long lines and all of that and ultimately they came to us and said ‘What do you think?’ I had heard of King of Prussia Mall,” he added. “It’s famous and it’s beautiful. How do you say no?”

Pink’s parents, Paul and Betty Pink, started the business with a pushcart they purchased for $50, which they borrowed from Betty’s mother, according to the website, pinkshollywood.com. The couple paid $15 a month to rent the ground on which the puchcart stood. Hot dogs at the time were 10 cents and a Coca Cola was a nickel.

Pink’s unique menu, its longevity and popularity with everyone from movie stars to celebrity chefs and regular people, has made it a favorite cultural reference on the Travel channel, Food Network and in many movies.

Over the years Pink’s has expanded to several locations in California, Las Vegas, Ohio, Connecticut, New York, Miami, Cleveland, and Hawaii and has also developed a catering side to the business.

“In Hollywood, we get tourists from all over the world, Australia, Japan, Korea, not just the U.S.,” Pink said. “The same supplier, Hoffy, has been supplying our hot dogs since 1939. The chili is the original chili recipe. If someone wants to go back and know what food tasted like back in World War II, when the soldiers were lined up at Pink’s, this is it. We want to stay authentic.”

Folks today are relishing the same snap and juiciness that Pink’s fanatics like Orson Welles enjoyed decades ago, when the legendary actor reportedly wolfed down more than a dozen hot dogs in one sitting.

“In L.A. we do 40 hot dogs; here in King of Prussia we do 20 hot dogs, the best of the best,” Pink said.

“I love Philadelphia and we wanted to have a Philly Cheesesteak Dog, which is fabulous. It’s an all-beef hot dog, topped with grilled steak, grilled vegetables, two different kinds of cheese. We’ve had it on the menu for 10 years.”

Betty White inspired the famous Pink’s Naked Dog (no toppings) Pink noted.

“When she’d go to the Hollywood Bowl at night for a concert she’d stop and get her Naked hot dog. Our slogan was ‘Betty White gets naked at Pink’s.’ She loved that.”

Pink said he’s always regarded the menu as merely a suggestion.

“You can customize any way you want it. You don’t have to follow the menu. If somebody wants a little more pickle or no onions or something else on it, if we have it on the menu you can put it on your hot dog. We want to make sure people consider it a real value. We don’t have portion control. If you want more chili on it, you can have more chili.”

Gloria Pink, wearing her signature bright pink jacket, shares her husband’s passion for the business.

The couple took over the business from Richard’s parents in 1985.

“People come to Pink’s in everything from pickups to limousines. If you look at our parking lot we have motorcycles, pickup trucks, full-fledged limousines,” she said, beaming when she mentioned the restaurant’s charitable nature.

“Every time we have an anniversary we roll back the prices. For our 60th anniversary, hot dogs were 60 cents for a limited amount of time. We had a different celebrity every night and we’d donate proceeds to the charity of their choice. Chili Dogs for charity is our way for thanking Los Angeles for 79 years of business. It’s hard to be in business that long unless you have a real connection with the community.”

With its Swiss cheese, American cheese, grilled onions and chopped tomatoes on top of a Polish hot dog, the “King” of Prussia Dog was a hit with customers when Pink’s eased into the mall with a soft opening, noted regional manager Eamon Manning.

“We wanted to make sure that the community knew that we were here, that we’re part of the community and they’re part of us, so we have the ‘King’ of Prussia Dog,” he said. “It’s one of our best-selling dogs. But when people ask me what they should get to eat, I always ask them ‘have you been here before?’ If they say no I tell them they have to go with the classic, with what built the business — the Chili Cheese Dog.”

Situated at the top of the escalator in the Savor food court, Pink’s is open during regular mall hours, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.

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