Obama-Mania: Tourism Business Booming in Obama's Chicago

"It's been good," said manager Tom Chronopoulos, estimating that "maybe 50" tourists come in every day.

Visitors to Valois frequently ask for "The Obama Special" -- egg whites, bacon and hash browns -- which Obama still eats about five times a week, sending in an aide to pick up his breakfast at about 7:30 most mornings, according to Chronopoulos.

"He used to come, but he's been busy," noted Chronopoulos in the understatement of the century.

The day after Obama's election victory, Chronopoulos said the cafeteria offered Obama's typical breakfast to diners for free, with one exception: scrambled eggs instead of egg whites.

"A lot of people don't eat egg whites," he noted.

"I remember one time he came in, just ordered his lunch, sat by himself, said 'hi' to people," Chronopoulos recalled about an Obama visit three years ago. "He seemed like a normal guy, just a regular Joe."

An autographed photo of the president-elect, along with a business card from his Senate office, now hangs on the back wall at the cafeteria.

"To Valois, Thanks for the great eats!" Obama signed it.

Just down the road a few blocks, another eatery makes a more blatant display of Obama's business. Medici on 57th hawks $18 t-shirts that read, "Obama Eats Here," and sells $35 cutting boards with the carved words, "I voted for Obama in 2008 -- Together we will change the world."

"We've sold over 1,000," said Medici's manager, Mattie Pool. "I just sold my last men's shirt."

"At least 25 people a day" come in asking for what Obama dines on, Pool said.

"I think some of it has to do with people being in his stomping grounds and coming in and wanting to know what he eats," she said. "But he's like everyone else. He mixes things up."

One of his favorites, along with the breakfast omelettes and bacon cheddar burgers, is the "Garbage Pizza," complete with pepperoni, sausage, Canadian bacon, ground beef, green peppers, mushrooms and onions.

Doug and Wendy Sibery of Sleepy Hollow, Ill., saw on television that Obama liked to take his wife Michelle to the eatery.

"If it's good enough for Michelle Obama, it's good enough for my wife," said Sibery, who naturally asked for -- what else? -- the "Garbage Pizza."

"Pan or thin crust," asked his waitress, wearing, of course, an "Obama Eats Here" t-shirt.

"What does Obama have?" responded Sibery.

"He has the pan," came the server's reply.

"So that's what I had," he said. "It was wonderful. A little pricey, but very good."

And very big, too.

"I had the small and it was huge," Sibery noted. "I don't know how he stays that thin."

"He has good taste in food," quipped one neighborhood customer named Jennifer.

"I hear he works out a lot," observed Pool.

Another regular patron named Stan Zerlin, who comes in about five times a week with his wife Betsy, gave the restaurant a poem about the president-elect that hangs on the wall:

"In the not so distant past / South Chicago was cast / As a place not particularly pleasin' / But from that humble place / Began a great race / That transformed / the political season.

"On the shores of Lake Mich / Loomed large a grand wish / And the cry / Yes we can / Yes we can / That cry grew quite loud / It enraptured the crowd / And elected our first / Black American."

Obama's daughter Malia has also left her mark on the eatery. In green crayon, she followed a restaurant tradition of scrawling her signature onto an upstairs wall.

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