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Happy Birthday, Mrs. Obama! Now What’s for Dinner?

Official White House Photo by Sonya N. Hebert(WASHINGTON) -- UPDATE: The president and first lady celebrated Mrs. Obama's birthday with dinner at Cafe Milano, a posh, upscale Italian restaurant in Georgetown.

Before the inauguration festivities get underway, the Obama family celebrates another important milestone: the first lady’s birthday.

Mrs. Obama turns 49 on Thursday and, if previous years are any indication, President Obama will likely take his wife out to dinner in Washington. While there is no such event on the president’s public schedule, the Obamas have dined out on the first lady’s birthday for the past four years.

The list of restaurants visited on her birthday reads like a Zagat guide for fine dining in Washington.

The tradition started in 2009 with a visit to the nearby Equinox restaurant. Just across Lafayette Park from the White House, the restaurant is known for its regional and seasonal cuisine. The following year it was Restaurant Nora, which boasts of being the first certified organic restaurant in the country.

In 2011, the President took his wife to celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck’s restaurant, The Source, for dinner on her 47th birthday. Last year, they stayed close again, crossing the park for a steak dinner at BLT Steak.

Eddie Gehman Kohan, who keeps close tabs on the Obamas’ dining and White House food initiatives on her blog Obama Foodorama, notes that the chef who serves Mrs. Obama’s birthday dinner Thursday night could end up working for the administration. All four chefs that have prepared her birthday meal in the past have gone on to participate in Mrs. Obama’s Let’sMove! initiative or been named as members of the State Department’s American Chef Corps.

Regardless of whether it leads to a White House gig or not, a visit from the first family gives a local restaurant a boost. “Businesses have a big spike when the President and First Lady go out,” Kohan told ABC News. “By the end of it there’s always a crowd outside the restaurant...  In the past, the crowds have sung Mrs. Obama ‘Happy Birthday.’”

The birthday dinners are always off-the-record and kept secret until the president and first lady arrive at the restaurant. Unlike the usual drop-by, restaurants are usually given a heads up when the Obamas are coming for a special occasion, according to Kohan. Secrecy remains a top priority, however, and the White House asks restaurants not to discuss publicly what the Obamas dine on.

As for where they might be headed Thursday night, Kohan said “it’s dangerous to predict.” The president and first lady have yet to make a repeat visit to a D.C. restaurant for a formal excursion.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

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