Inauguration Celebration: 10 Ways to Eat and Drink Like Obama in Washington

Chicago dogs, savory-sweet desserts, and a “West Wing”–inspired meal at home.

A Chicago-style sausage from Haute Dog & Fries. What better way to celebrate term two? Photograph by Andrew Propp.

Recently, Washingtonian critic Todd Kliman briefed the President on strategies for tackling the local dining scene in term two. But we can also take advice from the President on how to eat well around town. So if you’re not inclined to cough up the cash for an inaugural ball, here are ten much cheaper ways to celebrate Obama’s second term—all inspired by POTUS himself.

10) Brew your own beer (not really). Then share the recipe . . . reluctantly.

Here’s how to home brew, POTUS-style: 1) Get someone else to do it. 2) Talk up how good it is. 3) When your people demand a recipe, say nothing for a while. 4) Finally, when demand reaches a fever pitch, release the recipe.

If you’re sincerely interested in amateur beermaking, visit the homebrewing shop at 3 Stars Brewing Company (6400 Chillum Pl., NW). It’s stocked with all the equipment you need and manned by some serious enthusiasts. Or you could get this White House Honey Ale kit from Northern Brewer.

9) Go to Ray’s Hell-Burger. Twice.

As Kliman pointed out in his aforementioned memo, Ray’s is the only local restaurant that got two presidential visits in the first term. And as devoted minions of the Mack, we totally get it.

8) Savor dessert.

Obama was way ahead of the curve on the salted caramel trend, having long ago discovered Seattle-based Fran’s Chocolates, which specializes in the savory-sweet treats. You can order those online, or go local by trying excellent Washington versions at Fleurir (in Alexandria and Georgetown) or Co Co. Sala in Penn Quarter.

7) Make pizza your favorite.

When Oprah asked the other big O what his favorite food was, he told her that he loved pizza night at the White House. As it so happens, pizzerias have exploded in Washington since Obama took office. Coincidence? Most likely. Happy coincidence? Most definitely. 2 Amys, Comet Ping Pong, Mia’s, and Pete’s have been joined by great new options that include Menomale, H &Pizza (coming soon to the U Street Corridor!), Mellow Mushroom, Graffiato, Sugo Cicchetti, and more.

6) Do deli.

While the Romney campaign filled up at Chick-fil-A on the campaign trail, the Prez’s crew went for bagels, Subway, Dunkin’ Donuts, and deli food. Lucky for you, Washington just welcomed an excellent deli concept to Dupont Circle.

5) Get plenty of exposure.

This shouldn’t be hard. In this town you can’t swing a cat without hitting—ouch, poor cat—a wall of industrial brick, the backdrop to just about every restaurant that opened in 2012. The brickhouse eateries Obama has tried include Boundary Road, Scion, Mintwood Place, Taylor Gourmet, and Smith Commons, to name just a few.

4) Eat ice cream

. . . and lots of it. In addition to many scoops along the campaign trail, Obama has taken his daughters to local sweet treats spots, including Thomas Sweet in Georgetown and Dairy Godmother. Ice cream has become quite a thing here in town—you could spend the next four years trying sundaes, cookie sandwiches, and so many other frozen desserts.

3) West Wing it.

Fans of The West Wing will recall the early-season-one staff party in which Jed and Zoey Bartlet cook up some chili for the crew. Remember? It’s that very pre-9/11 episode in which Josh has a nervous breakdown after he’s given the card telling him where to go in case of nuclear fallout? Anyway, our real-life President reportedly loves making chili, and you will, too, after whipping up a batch of Washington’s favorite meat-and-bean stew, courtesy of Clyde’s.

2) Dog the haters.

Earlier this year, a group of doctors joined forces to ask POTUS to please stop eating hot dogs and burgers in public. Come on, doctors. The guy is from Chicago, home of the greatest dogs known to man (sorry, New York). You can’t expect him to give up the wieners entirely.

Next time you’re looking for some Midwest-style street eats, head to Haute Dog & Fries in Alexandria and Purcellville for a steaming sausage topped with onions, tomato, hot peppers, pickle relish, dill pickles, mustard,
and celery salt.

1) Go Hawaiian.

Obama was born in Honolulu, of course, and he and the fam often return to dine out at favorite venues celebrating regional cuisine, such as Alan Wong’s, where he dined on January 3. While Washington isn’t exactly overflowing with plate lunch and tuna poke, now is the moment to try some island specialties. Passenger chef Javier Duran has set himself up in the pop-up space behind Hogo, the new bar at 1017 Seventh Street, Northwest, where he is turning out macaroni salad, Spam musubi, and other treats.