A handful of well-known restaurants routinely attract the political crowd in Philadelphia. Every Election Day since the 1990s, Democratic politicos have flocked to the Famous 4th Street Deli in Queen Village, and lately Germantown’s Relish has become a popular choice. The Palm, under renovation right now, has been a hub for power lunches between lobbyists, politicians and staffers. The same can be said for Capital Grille across from City Hall.
But as the Democratic National Convention consumes Philadelphia this week, perhaps it’s time to anoint another political food hotspot, and it’s a hot dog cart. Specifically, Eleni Grohimos’ hot dog cart at Broad and Sansom.
Pa. Gov. Tom Wolf and his wife, Frances, placed it on their official guide for DNC visitors, listing it with Relish, Zahav, Ristorante La Buca, Zinc Bistro and Talula’s Garden. They aren’t the only ones who enjoy Grohimos’ food. Mayor Jim Kenney has stopped by. Ed Rendell used to be a regular.
For Wolf, a noted lover of hot dogs, Grohimos’ cart isn’t just a way for him to create a working class image and pander to Pennsylvanians. He really ate there. A lot.
“When he was campaigning,” said Grohimos’ daughter, Stella Grohimos, “he would come at least once a week.”
They didn’t know who he was at first. Then Stella’s teenage son recognized him from an ad — yep the famous Jeep one — and they realized the Democratic candidate for governor was enjoying their food.
Eleni, a Greek immigrant and South Philly resident, has operated the food cart at Broad and Sansom for about 35 years. She was one of the first Greeks to open a food cart in Center City, and after a few years many more had joined. Now, they’re one of the few Greek carts left. Most carts are of the halal variety and don’t offer the same foods as Grohimos’ cart. The hot dog is a top seller, as is the breakfast sandwich and the Italian sausage.
“Everything mom cooks,” Stella said, “it’s like, ‘Oh my God, so good.’”
Wolf would order his hot dog with regular mustard and sauerkraut. Spokesperson Jeffrey Sheridan said Wolf started going out of convenience at first (his campaign office was located across the street) then started enjoying the hot dogs and chatting with Stella and Eleni Grohimos.
Their cart may lack the prestige of somewhere like the Palm or Capital Grille, but it makes up for it with convenience and location. Next to City Hall, the Union League and the Bellevue, Grohimos’ stand is in the middle of plenty of political activity.
“Ed Rendell used to get his breakfast from us,” Stella said.
“And Mr. Kenney,” Eleni chimed in.
“Yeah,” Stella said, “he would get his bagel. They’re all very nice people, especially Ed Rendell.”
Not every politician has treated them well. Stella Grohimos wouldn’t name names but said a lot of them have stopped by with an air of entitlement. They say Wolf has never been like that, and he’s continued to visit Stella and Eleni every so often while in office.
Told that the Governor put their hot dog cart on a list that included Zahav and other fine dining establishments, they smiled.
“He always said he loved the hot dog,” Stella Grohimos said. “He said it was the only one he’d eat and not get heartburn.”