Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Top 20 Best Places To Eat Like The Obamas During The 2013 Inauguration Celebration

The taste-tested, definitive guide to the best choices, from casual take-out to fine dining and sweet treats...
For those visiting Washington for the President Obama's second Inaugural, Obama Foodorama has created a curated list of the twenty best places to eat like the First Couple while celebrating "Faith in America's Future."  The President and First Lady Obama have embraced the local restaurant scene during his first term, dining out for Date Nights, birthdays and anniversaries, and campaign contest meals, enjoying everything from cheeseburgers, pizza and BBQ to Mexican street food and the finest Wagyu steak.   The President has also escorted world leaders to dinners outside the White House--or sent them on their own to enjoy the District's delights.  

The list is divided into Casual/Take-Out, Family Friendly, Fine Dining, and Sweet Treats, with notes on the dishes the First Couple enjoyed when they visited.  All the restaurants will be open during Inaugural Weekend and on Monday, with a few exceptions on Sunday noted.  Many have extended hours; addresses, phone numbers and websites are included.  All are in the DC Metro area, which includes nearby Virginia.  

The eateries are not "ranked" on the list by number, but during repeat visits by Obama Foodorama all were consistently tasty and had good service--which cannot be said for *every* restaurant the President and Mrs. Obama have patronized.  These shall remain nameless.  For those celebrating the Inauguration at home, check out the recipes for the farm-to-table menu President Obama will be served at his Inaugural Luncheon on Monday, Jan. 21. 

POTUS serves Taylor Gourmet hoagies at the White House
Casual/Take-Out Restaurants

*1 - Taylor Gourmet in Washington, DC is perfect for take-out during the Inaugural Weekend.  And that's exactly what President Obama ordered when he stopped by in May of 2012 to pick up six authentic Philadelphia-style hoagies for a luncheon with Congressional leaders.  The President ordered a 12-inch Spruce Street hoagie for himself, which has roast turkey, prosciutto, roasted red peppers and sharp provolone on house-made bread.  Taylor Gourmet has multiple locations around the DC Metro area, and all will be open, a spokesman said.  

The President visited the Taylor Gourmet at 1908 14th St. NW, Washington, DC, 20009.  Phone: 202-588-7117. The website

*2 - Ben's Chili Bowl has been a DC institution since 1958, and always has a line out the door.  Even longer lines can be expected during the Inaugural Weekend, but it's worth it.  President-elect Obama visited on Jan. 10, 2009, and enjoyed the house signature Chili Half-Smoke, a quarter-pound half pork and beef smoked sausage on a steamed bun with mustard, onions and chili sauce.  He also ordered Chili-topped french fries and iced tea.  Making the place even more fitting for this Inauguration: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. also patronized Ben's.  In March of 2010, the President sent then-President Nicolas Sarkozy of France and his family for a visit.  

Ben's is open until 2:00 AM most days, and is at 1213 U Street NW, Washington, DC, 20009. Phone 202-667-0909.  The website.  

*3 - Kenny's BBQ Smokehouse in Northeast DC was the President's choice for a Father's Day luncheon in June of 2012.  Joined at the very traditional brick-walled eatery by two barbers and two members of the military, the President ordered the Carolina-style beef ribs, collard greens, black eyed peas, rice and a corn muffin, which he ate from a styrofoam takeout container, washed down with bottled water.  

Kenny's is at 732 Maryland Avenue NE, Washington, DC, 2002. Phone: 202-547-4553.  Closed this Sunday.  No website.

The President orders at Five Guys

*4 - Five Guys Burgers and Fries has locations around the US, and the President stopped for take-out in May of 2009, visiting the location near Nationals Stadium.  Mrs. Obama also dined at a Five Guys with staff in February of the same year at the DuPont Circle location. The burgers are "cooked juicy and well done," and served on fluffy buns, with a wide variety of toppings.  The President ordered a cheeseburger with jalapenos, tomatoes and mustard, and a side of regular fries (as opposed to the Cajun spice). 

The Five Guys the President visited is at 1100 New Jersey Ave. SE, Washington, DC., 20003.  Phone:  202 863-0570.  The Five Guys Mrs. Obama visited is at 1645 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20009. Phone: 202-328-3483.  

For those visiting the White House during the Inaugural Weekend, there's now a Five Guys located just blocks away at 1400 I St. NW, phone 202-450-3412.  The website.

The President at Lincoln Restaurant
Family Friendly Restaurants

*5 - Lincoln Restaurant is located downtown near the White House, and President Obama had lunch there in June of 2012 with four winners of the 'Dinner with Barack IV' campaign contest.  He enjoyed a Lincoln Burger with Meyer Farms Beef, watercress, roasted tomatoes,  swapping the standard goat cheese for cheddar cheese. He also had French fries and iced tea.  The menu is contemporary American cuisine focusing on "seasonal small plates," and the decor is all about President Lincoln...perfect for Inaugural dining.  Warning:  It's noisy. 

Lincoln Restaurant is at 1110 Vermont Avenue, Washington, DC, 2005. Phone: 202-386-9200.  The website.

*6 & 7 - Good Stuff Eatery and We, The Pizza on Capitol Hill are both owned by Chef Spike Mendelsohn, of Top Chef fame.  He's been a repeat guest-chef at the White House, and is involved in the Let's Move! campaign.  Good Stuff does very creative burgers and salads, and features burgers named for the First Couple; We, The Pizza is pizza and salads.  The President visited Good Stuff for a luncheon for staff in August of 2011, to celebrate what seemed like a sure-fire debt deal with Congress (a bit premature, it turns out). The President ordered a cheeseburger, French fries, bottled water and salad.

Mrs. Obama has made at least six visits to the two eateries, but her dining excursions often go under the radar, because she "sneaks out."  She is a big fan of the pizza, and the burgers, salads, and milk shakes at Good Stuff.

The two restaurants are next door to each other at 303 and 305 Pennsylvania Ave. SE, Washington, DC 20003. Phone for Good Stuff: 202-543-8222; for We, The Pizza: 202-544-4008.  Both are open on Sunday during Inauguration Weekend.  The Good Stuff website and the We, The Pizza website.

President & Mrs. Obama at Boundary Road
*8 - Boundary Road restaurant on the hip H Street corridor was the President's choice for the third 'Dinner with Barack' contest meal in March of 2012.  Mrs. Obama joined the fun with the six winners, and the First Couple ordered the same entree:  Grilled Hanger Steak with chestnut puree served over spicy kale, with a "sauce charon," similar to a Bearnaise. The President started with the Quark and Black Pepper Pierogi, while Mrs. Obama started with the Rapini Salad, chilled rappini with pickled shallots, avocado oil, and Firefly Farms Mountain Top Bleu.  The President had iced tea.  Neither ordered dessert.  On Jan. 21, Boundary Road will open at noon, and be projecting Inauguration coverage on a big screen in the dining room.

Boundary Road is at 414 H St. NE, Washington, DC. Phone: 202-450-3265.  The website.

*9 & 10 - Zaytinya, a Greek, Lebanese, and Turkish restaurant and Oyamel, with a contemporary take on Mexico cuisine, are both favorites of Mrs. Obama, and located in DC's Chinatown.  Both are owned by acclaimed Chef José Andrés, a frequent White House guest chef and partner in the Let's Move! campaign.  The First Lady has dined at each multiple times.  She most recently visited Oyamel for a dinner party in February of 2012.  The menu stars small plates, "Anojitos," and Mrs. Obama said she dined on mushroom and pumpkin seed tacos, huitlacoche, gazpacho, guacamole, and, for dessert, tres leches.  

Oyamel is at 401 7th St. NW, Washington, DC, 20004. Phone: 202-628-1005.  The website.

Zaytinya offers embroideries on traditional favorites, and everything is stunning.  Unlike many chefs who serve the Obamas, Andrés has remained steadfastly silent about what he's cooked for his famous guest.  But a server revealed Mrs. Obama's order during one visit:  It included Crispy Brussels Affelia, Roasted Cauliflower, Grape Leaves-Dolmade, Pan Roasted Dorade and Knisa Lamb Chops.   

 Zaytinya is at 701 9th Street NW, Washington, DC, 20001.  Phone: 202-638-0800.  The website.  

*11 - The Liberty Tavern in Arlington, Virginia was the site of the first 'Dinner with Barack' contest meal in October of 2011, and President Obama dined with four winners.  Again, the menu is seasonal American cuisine, and the President ordered the "Harpoon Caught Swordfish," served "Portuguese style," accompanied by white beans, sweet peppers, lamb sausage escarole, and Littleneck clam sauce. He also had the Tavern Salad, which is field greens with breakfast radish and red wine vinaigrette.  The winners declined the President's offer of dessert.  

The Liberty Tavern is at 3195 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, VA, 22201. Phone: 703-465-9360.  The website.

The President & Chancellor arrive at 1789

Fine Dining Restaurants

*12 - 1789 Restaurant is in the historic Georgetown neighborhood, and President Obama wined and dined German Chancellor Angela Merkel here in June of 2011 on the eve of a State Dinner in her honor.  The menu is seasonal American cuisine; President Obama ordered the Summer Asparagus Salad and the organic Beef Tenderloin accompanied by a Yukon gold potato puree, roasted Porcini mushrooms, Swiss chard and bordelaise

1789 is at 1226 36th St. NW, Washington D.C., DC 20007. Phone: 202-965-1789. The website.

*13 - Equinox Restaurant was the very first fine restaurant the President-elect and Mrs. Obama dined at in January of 2009, celebrating Mrs. Obama's birthday days before the first inauguration.  It is a stone's throw from the White House, and Chef Todd Gray, a partner in the Let's Move! campaign, offers seasonal, organic American cuisine.  The First Couple  enjoyed the Rappahannock oysters with apple and celery root mousseline, followed by strip loin with thinly sliced Yukon gold potatoes and wilted spinach.  Dessert was vanilla ice cream with caramelized bananas.  The First Lady made another visit in March of 2011 for a luncheon with the First Lady of Mexico.  She ordered herbed potato gnocchi with black trumpet mushrooms and pulled chicken salad with cashews and cranberries, followed by warm ricotta beignets for dessert.

This Sunday Equinox is offering a special Obama-MLK Brunch menu inspired by the two leaders.  It is at 818 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20006.  Phone: 202-331-8118   The website.

*14  - Restaurant Eve in Alexandria, Virginia, is owned by Chef Cathal Armstrong, another Let's Move! partner, and acclaimed by critics.  The President and Mrs. Obama celebrated their 19th wedding anniversary here in October of 2011.  Both enjoyed the butter poached lobster on butternut squash appetizer, and the President had the 10-ounce Ribeye steak with deep-fried oysters for his entree.  Mrs. Obama had the venison au poivre with a corn cake, and they shared a miniature Waldorf salad with wine-poached apple balls, candied walnuts, raisins poached in port and baby celery.  For dessert, the President had lavender mascarpone in puff pastry, and Mrs. Obama had the flourless chocolate cake with rosemary ganache.  

Restaurant Eve is at 110 South Pitt street, Alexandria, VA. Phone: 703-706-0450.  The website.

*15 - BLT Steak, located just across Lafayette Square from the White House, was the President's choice for a 48th birthday dinner for Mrs. Obama in January of 2012.  Mrs. Obama was already something of a regular, choosing the eatery for some of her "secret" dining excursions, including one in April of 2011 that was tweeted by hockey star Alex OvechkinExecutive Chef Victor Albisu did the cooking for the birthday dinner, and the President and Mrs. Obama both enjoyed American Wagyu Top Cap accompanied by French fries, Mashed Potatoes, Caramelized Brussels Sprouts with Bacon, Creamed Spinach, and Hen of the Woods Mushrooms.  Appetizers ordered for the table to share were also steak: The American Wagyu Skirt Steak and 28-Day Dry Aged New York Strip.   

BLT Steak is at 1625 Eye St. NW, Washington, DC, 2005. Phone: 202-689-8999.  The website.

*16 - Restaurant Nora is the first restaurant in America to be certified organic, and President Obama treated his wife to a birthday surprise party there on Jan. 16, 2010, the eve of the big day. The First Lady was surprised as she marked her 46th with a party of ten.  The celebration lasted close to four hours. 

Mrs. Obama dined on a salad of mixed greens (specially prepared by Chef Benjamin Lambert and not on the menu), and ordered rack of lamb with preserved lemon and mint salad, accompanied by chick pea puree, with green beans and sun-dried tomatoes.  The President dined on pan-seared Maine lobster and saffron risotto.  Mrs. Obama had white wine to begin--a glass of 2008 Spottswoode Sauvignon Blanc--and red wine with the entree. 

Restaurant Nora is at 2132 Florida Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20008.  Phone: 202-462-5143The website.

The President greets Thomas Sweet patrons

Sweet Treats 

*17 - Thomas Sweet, a popular ice cream and chocolate shop in Georgetown, got a Presidential visit on Father's Day 2011.  Joined by daughters Malia and Sasha, the President celebrated with a cookie dough and vanilla ice cream cone.  The shop has played host to many other Presidents and political luminaries, and bills itself as "the favored ice cream shop of prominent Washingtonians for generations, preferred by senators and Presidential families."  

Thomas Sweet is at 3214 P St. NW, Washington, DC, 20007. Phone:  202-337-0616.  The website.

*18 - Georgetown Cupcake in Georgetown is nationally known thanks to having its own reality TV show, and is wildly popular with locals.  Mrs. Obama organized a tenth birthday party here for First Daughter Sasha Obama in June of 2011.  

The shop is located at 3301 M St. NW, Washington, DC, 20007.  Phone: 202-333-8448.  The website.

*19 - The Dairy Godmother in Alexandria, VA, offers old-fashioned frozen custard, and of course that's what the President enjoyed when he visited with his daughters in June of 2009.  It was a hot summer day, and the President had a small cup with vanilla custard, topped with hot fudge and almonds. Sasha ordered a brownie sundae with vanilla custard, hot fudge and chocolate sprinkles, while Malia had a waffle cone with vanilla custard.  

The Dairy Godmother is at 2310 Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria VA. 22301. Phone: 703.683.7767. The website.

*20 - Pinkberry was the site of a casual 11th birthday celebration for Sasha in June of 2012, when Mrs. Obama escorted her daughters and pals to the DuPont Circle shop.  They enjoyed the signature frozen yogurt while seated at a table in the front window.  

It is at 1213 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington, DC, 20036. Phone: 202-419-3443.


Update: Ray's Hell Burger was originally on this list, but closed for business the day after this was posted, due to a dispute with its landlord.

*Thomas Sweet, Chancellor Merkel, Five Guys and Taylor Gourmet photos by Pete Souza/White House; others by Scout Tufankjian/Obama for America