Brothers Trent and Brent Smith, 22 and 28, stopped by The Varsity around 11:15 a.m. They were told the president would be visiting after asking about the number of cop cars outside.
"We have to wait pick up our friend at 12:30, so we may as well see the president while we wait," Brent Smith, of Alabama, said. "I think he's coming here because it's an Atlanta landmark. It's where everyone eats. I bet he'll get a burger. Maybe onion rings."
Politicians often stop at the Atlanta landmark, according to day manager Ramee Shalabi, so it was only a matter of time before Obama stopped by, he said. George H.W. Bush ate there in 1990 and Bill Clinton dined with then-Gov. Zell Miller in 1994.
Still, Shalabi had no warning Obama would be dining at the North Avenue eatery.
"It's about time he visited us," he said, as his fellow employees tried to take orders while Secret Service agents searched them with metal wands. "Normally, Tuesdays are slow, but if this gets out people are going to stop by."
About 30 other customers in one dining room were told to stay at their tables by Secret Service agents. If Obama had time, they said, he would greet them directly.
Five minutes until the president shows up, an agent announced.
The buzz grew stronger.
The Smith brothers continued eating their onion rings, and one called a friend. "We might be late," he said. "We're about to see the president."
The Varsity door opened, allowing customers to hear the screams from a large crowd gathered outside. A group of reporters, cameramen and bodyguards rushed inside.
"How's it going, everybody?" the 44th president of the United States asked.
Obama began shaking hands. He posed for photos with a few servicemen and tried unsuccessfully to sign Brent Smith's Varsity plate.
"Anybody got a Sharpie?" Obama asked, before flipping the plate over and signing the other side.
Then it was my turn. I've only been an intern at the AJC for four weeks, so, no, I was not prepared to see, meet or interview the president. I sat in the corner table, thinking he would pass me by altogether.
Instead, he said hello, shook my hand and asked why I had a notebook in my lap.
"To write things," I said. That sound in my ear? That's the sound of my former journalism professors hitting their heads against a wall.
The president smiled. "Where are you from?"
"The Atlanta Journal-Constitution," I said. "But I'm originally from Kansas."
"Kansas? We're probably related!" said Obama, a reference to his mother, Ann Dunham, who was born in Wichita.
My first and only question: Why did he visit The Varsity while in Atlanta?
"I'm excited to get a hot dog," Obama said. "I hear they are really good here."
"Good luck in the future," he added. "I hope I just gave you your big break."
He walked through the restaurant and, I'm told, ordered five chili dogs, four hot dogs, and one cheeseburger. I didn't get to witness it, as I was too busy realizing I had just interviewed the president. About hot dogs.