DIY Inauguration Party: The Best Spots to Get Deep-Dish, Burgers, and Other On-Theme Treats

Bonus: Beer guru Greg Engert weighs in on the best beers to sub in for White House Honey Ale.

Make a Chicago-style deep dish the centerpiece of your inauguration shindig. Photograph courtesy of Shutterstock.

Missing the big bucks and black-tie gear required to attend a presidential ball? That shouldn’t stop you from getting into the spirit over inauguration weekend. Grab a few friends and party like the 47 percent—entitled to (delicious) food and drink. We’ve rounded up White House-themed eats and sips for throwing your own festivities, from gallons of Ben’s chili to Chicago dogs to stand-in brews for the President’s much-prized Honey Ale. 


Unfortunately, most of us can’t get our hands on White House Honey Ale (unless you want to brew your own or pay $1,200 for a solo). Thankfully Greg Engert, Neighborhood Restaurant Group’s beer-man-about-town, has some informed advice about how to source a replacement.

“Though the White House prominently mentions the honeyed aspect of their brew, honey wouldn’t really come through in the flavor of the ale itself,” says Engert. “In the recipe, honey is a fermentable sugar source . . . but leaves little—if any—honeyed sweetness on the palate.” Therefore, “the beer would probably look and taste more like a British-style bitter or pale ale due to the light amber hue and balance of malt and hop.” 

Engert suggests substituting American brews Brooklyn Pennant Pale Ale, Schlafly Pale Ale, and Goose Island Honkers Ale, all available at local shops. From across the pond, he recommends the readily available Old Speckled Hen. Look for these beers at Rodman’s, De Vinos, and other such shops.

Deep-Dish Pie

Turn a pizza party into a presidential occasion with Chicago-style pies to honor the Obamas’ hometown. (Check out our pizza style guide if you need help distinguishing this heavyweight champion from others.) One Washingtonian food editor likes to order directly from the source, receiving ice-packed rounds by airmail from the Windy City’s famous Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria. Too much advance planning? We’re also fans of District of Pi in Penn Quarter, which offers the hearty eat-in and carryout pizzas on inauguration day. And if you’re planning a nod to the VP, we hear Biden relishes Pete’s Apizza as much as we do. 


The President may be a burger man (see below), but when it comes to his hometown, hot dogs are king. One of our favorite local incarnations of the classic Chicago dog can be found at the newly opened Haute Dogs & Fries in Alexandria. The shop offers all dogs to go—unless you feel like escaping the DC crowds, in which case you’re welcome to snag a table and linger. For a large party, the best option is Ben’s Chili Bowl, which was one of the first dining stops in DC for our foodie prez back in 2009. The eatery’s shop sells its famous chili by the half and full gallon—call an hour ahead if you want to pick it up hot—as well as buns, half-smokes, and everything else you need to replicate the historic dogs. 


If this balmy weather holds up, you may just be grilling on your inauguration/Martin Luther King Day off. Even if you’re pan-frying your patties, follow tips for the perfect burger from Ray’s Hell-Burger owner Michael Landrum, who has hosted the President on two occasions. Feel more like carrying out for the crowd? Make like the First Family and pick up sandwiches at Good Stuff Eatery, where the likes of a bacon-and-Roquefort-topped Prez Obama Burger can be had to stay or go.

Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.