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Obamas dine at Alan Wong's

By Leila Fujimori

LAST UPDATED: 3:18 p.m. HST, Dec 30, 2010

President Obama and his party caused quite a stir dining at Alan Wong's Restaurant Honolulu on South King Street last evening -- one of his favorite restaurants.

Onlookers waited patiently outside Alan Wong's for three hours, hoping to catch a glimpse of the president, the first lady and the rest of their party.

The award-winning eatery is in the same neighborhood where Obama grew up, and the president's motorcade passed the Honolulu apartment where he once lived with his late grandmother and the Baskin Robbins ice cream shop where he worked as a teenager.

The Obamas have dined at the restaurant during his last two vacations in Hawaii,, and also invited Wong to cater a luau at the White House.

Diner Darlene Yoshioka of Foster Village got to shake the president's hand.

"He had to pass in front of us, so I just stuck my hand out," she said.

Cindy Tokuyama, who dined with Yoshioka, said, "She was the only one to shake his hand."

"I think heard her say, 'Hi, Mr. President. Are you enjoying your vacation?'"

Yoshioka captured several photographs of the president, his wife, his sister and brother-in-law, and Alan Wong greeting his special patrons, on her iPhone.

She had someone take shots of herself and two of her friends with the president in the background.

While waiting for her friends to arrive, she noticed the special table for the president -- the only one decorated with flowers. Obama's sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng, and her husband, Konrad Ng, also arrived early and played Scrabble while waiting.

She called her friends and told them: "We're having dinner with a special guest."

"It's a very small restaurant, so when he and Michelle came in, everybody stood up and clapped, and he waved," Yoshioka said. The group of about 10 to 12 did not include the Obamas' daughters. 

"We had to thank Cindy, because she got sick last week," Yoshioka said of her golf club members, who were enjoying a belated Christmas dinner.

The president's sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng, and her husband joined the Obamas at dinner, along with several friends from Hawaii and Chicago who are vacationing with the president.

 Gwen Rulona of Kaneohe was brimming with excitement after emerging from the restaurant.

"We got to see him (the president)," she said. "It was cool."

"They told us we had to leave by 7 p.m.," she said, adding they didn't get chased out though they stayed past that time. "We knew he was coming because we walked through metal detectors. When he came, it was great.

"Alan Wong hardly cooks, but he was cooking tonight," Rulona said.

She suspects the restaurateur himself prepared her twice-baked short ribs.

The White House press pool said the Obamas arrived about 7:35 p.m. and left just after 10 p.m.

Obama has made few public appearances since arriving on the island of Oahu last week. He's spent much of his time at his family's rented oceanfront home, and at a nearby marine base where he works out, golfs and takes his family to the beach.

The president appears to be enjoying his downtime: The White House announced Wednesday that the first family is pushing their return to Washington back one day, and will now leave Hawaii late in the evening on Jan. 3. The Obamas are due back in Washington the following day.

The Obamas have already pushed back their departure once, changing their return from Saturday to Sunday after the president delayed his arrival in Hawaii to stay in Washington while Congress wrapped up the legislative year.

Obama spokesman Bill Burton said the president is trying to squeeze in more time with his family before returning to the nation's capital.

The delayed departure means Obama's daughters will miss at least two days of school. Classes resume at Sidwell Friends, the private school they attend, on Monday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report


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