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Pancake anarchy difficult to digest

About Eric Heyl
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Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Eric Heyl is a columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. His work appears throughout the week.

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By Eric Heyl

Published: Sunday, Sept. 27, 2009

The pancakes played a pivotal role.

It can't be proven, but trust me on that. Were it not for the delectable, airy pancakes served at the six Pamela's Diners in Pittsburgh, vandals probably would not have targeted the Oakland location during the G-20 summit.

Not because some people don't care for Pamela's scrumptious plain, strawberry, banana walnut or chocolate chip hotcakes, but because certain people like them a lot — namely, President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama.

"It's a thought that went through our minds," said Michele Mazzella, who runs the Oakland Pamela's along with Tim Blosat, as she stood near the large front window protesters broke Thursday.

How could they not have considered that possibility?

Among businesses whose windows protesters smashed during the international economic conference that concluded Friday at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center were financial institutions PNC, BNY Mellon and Citizens Bank; corporate eateries such as McDonald's, Quizno's, Subway and Boston Market; and a BMW dealership.

Pamela's was one of the few locally based businesses that anarchists targeted. Could that be because Obama, the guy who brought the G-20 to town, is an unabashed fan of the food there?

Obama's love affair with the diner began during an April 2008 campaign stop, when he visited the Pamela's in the Strip District. He raved about the strawberry pancakes, saying — I'm paraphrasing here — the flapjacks were so good he would no sooner douse them with motor oil than ruin them with syrup.

After he became president, the economy might have been at the forefront of Obama's mind, but he obviously reserved a small recess of his brain for Pamela's pancakes.

He proved that in May, when Pamela's co-owners, Gail Klingensmith and Pam Cohen, were invited to the White House to cook a Memorial Day breakfast for the Obamas and 80 military veterans.

On Friday morning, Michelle Obama and a small entourage journeyed to the Millvale Pamela's. The first lady ordered plain pancakes, bacon and a small orange juice, reported Pamela's general manager Michelle Mika.

"She tipped very, very, very well," she said.

Although no concrete evidence exists that Pamela's was targeted by agitators because it is the president's preferred pancake place, Mazzella is convinced that no locals committed the vandalism.

"My personal opinion is, that was someone from out of town," she said. "We've had a number of students come by saying, 'Oh no, not Pamela's' and ask us, 'How could they do this to you?' That's been pretty gratifying."

No matter what their political persuasion, this incident has fans of hearty breakfasts everywhere uneasily pondering this question: On those infrequent occasions when politics and pancakes collide, can any diner truly be considered safe?




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