Back in May 2016—in simpler, better times—President Barack Obama and gonzo chef Anthony Bourdian sat down for a $6 meal of noodles and beer at a casual restaurant in Vietnam. The celebrity visitors continue to be a draw for Hanoi restaurant Bun Cha Huong Lien, so much so that people refer to it as Bun Cha Obama, according to Viet Nam News.
To preserve its claim to fame, the restaurant recently sealed off the table at which the two men sat—complete with staged plates, chopsticks, and beer—as a sort of shrine-slash-museum-slash-photo-op. Sealed in protective glass, the table is now an attraction of its own, the paper reports, with numerous people offering to buy the stools or table or glasses from the restaurant.
The news reminded me of an old-school ice cream parlor in my home state of New Jersey called Holsten’s. It’s located in Bloomfield, where my mom grew up, and we occasionally got
bribed with treated to malts and sundaes there as kids. One of Holsten’s maroon leather-flocked booths was also the scene of Tony Soprano’s onion rings meal during The Sopranos’ final episode, and I recall the ice cream parlor placing a somber “Reserved” sign on the table the day James Gandolfini died. Holsten’s now sells Sopranos-themed merch on its website, and people continue to order onion rings from Holsten’s as a sort of pilgrimage rite.
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It’s cool that these small, independently run restaurants get a boost from their celebrity visitors, and I can’t blame them for wanting to cash in on their 15 minutes in the spotlight. The plexiglass cage is a bit much, but it should definitely protect the restaurant’s claim to fame.
“For us, he [Obama] is a close and lovable person that we appreciate a lot,” Bun Cha Huong’s owner told Viet Nam News. Same, girl, same.