By Dinkinish O’Connor
I was smoking Obama with the rest of the world, high on the predictability of God’s unpredictability and a wine spliff I sipped in the car before yoga. Miami’s stunningly cool air was thick with change the evening before Obama’s inauguration, and as I lay in shavanasa, the Chardonnay-rich air growing denser against Bayfront Park’s oceanic embrace, I heard my phone throbbing in my purse. I tried to focus on my yoga instructor, who was reading Dr. King’s "I Have A Dream" speech, but the damn thing just kept throbbing. Then, going against all yogi law, I rose from stillness, opened my purse, and checked my phone. I get the text: FRANK IS BACK. I put the phone back in my purse and rested in shavanasna…
Let’s rewind a little: I used to love Frank Milano Anderson. I hadn’t seen him in person in three years.
However, I did see him on The Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. Frank had run into some excruciatingly good luck. His Savannah-based grandmother died, leaving him a $200,000 life insurance policy, and one year later he opened 9am @ Dinki’s to critical acclaim.
9am @ Dinki’s was exactly what he imagined: a renovated Irish green-painted trailer home in the middle of Little Five Points, an artsy enclave in Atlanta. There was an open kitchen, a counter with a few bar stools, a couple dining tables and really long lines for take-out. It was a no frills, beer-and-breakfast joint. And Frank got to make his favorite thing in the world: sausage. "If you can’t do breakfast at Tiffany’s, try duck sausage pancakes and heavy cream scrambled eggs at 9am @ Dinki’s," wrote a Food and Wine Magazine editor. "For those vegetarians secretly starving for carnivore indulgences, the sautéed ackee and vegetarian andouille sausage muffin is the answer to your prayers," wrote a Southern Living writer. "Heineken and smothered sausage biscuits is the new brunch special. Frank Anderson has taken America’s love for breakfast and beer and turned into a smart, delicious enterprise," wrote a Black Enterprise writer.
When the venue opened, I received an e-mail from Frank asking me to consult on the wine list. "I need you, Dink. Nobody knows my food like you do. I’ll pay you $5,000." Tempting, but I never responded. "He named his restaurant after you, Dinki," said my best friend Sandy. "At least hear what he has to say." I never did.
So, here we are three years later, and Frank is opening 9am @ Dinki’s in The Design District on Inauguration Day. My friend Standford, who sent me the initial text, is devastated that Frank is a "crotch connoisseur," which is interesting, as he once dissed me for even dating Frank back in his Wendy’s-manager days. Now that people like Usher, Martha Stewart and Rick Ross were scheduled to attend the grand opening, Standford has grown a sweet tooth for Frank:
"Dinkinish, you should go. I heard he wants you to be the manager. And you need the damn money. That starving artist martyr sh*t is so ’80s."
"He has wife, Stan."
"Well, I don’t do wives."
"Sweetie, he divorced her. She’s just a baby mama now."
"How do you know?"
"One of my ATL exes goes to his place almost every day, and he says that not only has he seen people like Justin Timberlake and Serena Williams getting food there, but that he doesn’t see Frank with anybody except this little girl. He’s always behind the grill. He must look scrumptious when he’s sweating."
"That doesn’t prove anything."
And then I get the call on Monday night:
"Baby, did you get the e-vite for the grand opening tomorrow?"
"Actually, no. Congratulations, Frank. I think what you’re doing is amazing."
"Are you still upset? Baby, I named my restaurant after you. Come on. Obama’s talking about change. Well, I’ve changed. After my divorce, I got full custody of my daughter, you know. It’s all about her and the restaurant. I haven’t dated anybody since the divorce. I think about you every day."
"Wow. It’s not that I’m still mad. It’s a trust thing. I’m having issues trusting…"
"Just come by to the opening. Just check the spot out. Tell me what you think. The restaurant’s a little higher end than the one in Atlanta, and so I need your wine input, Baby. I don’t want anybody else. I want you to pick my wines."
"Okay, let me think about it."
Then, there was a sudden jerk.
"You’ve been in shavasana for a while now," said a smelly yoga guru.
"Oh wow, I had this incredible dream that my ex opened a restaurant and named it after me."
On Tuesday, I was smoking Obama with the rest of the world, and as the sun was putting out its last cigarette, giving the sky this fiery, hot pink hue, I thought about the things I needed to put out in my own life. Miami’s stunningly cool air was thick with change and in my heart, I knew I needed one, and so I didn’t go to the opening, even though Standford called me "Gloria" from Waiting to Exhale.
Instead, I stayed home and opened a bottle of what I called my Obama wine — the 2005 Monfort-Bellevue Médoc. The sales dude at Total Wine & More swore by it. But the flavors were tight and insipid.
Then, my friend Summergale whose plane’s engine collapsed on Ft. Lauderdale airport’s runway the day before, showed up with a bottle of 2006 Blanco Nieva Verdejo. "I know you don’t typically do white, but maybe tonight’s not supposed to be a Bordeaux-night," she said as she pulled the cork. "Change is good." We both released a grand moan as Summergale poured. The passion fruit aromas were so pungent and invigorating, bursting through the light gold hue. We sipped as we watched Obama and his family on the television screen, the wine’s flavors of sour sop and coconut waltzing through a long fennel-y finish.
"What do you want this year?," Summergale asked me.
And just as I was going to answer, Frank texts: "I’m opening up a little spot. And I want you to be my wine girl."