The last occupant of the White House was a big fan of the Big Mac. Who can forget the massive buffet of McDonald’s, Burger King, and Wendy’s spread across the State Dining Room? Donald Trump never promoted eating from a single local restaurant beyond the steakhouse in his own hotel (perhaps for the best) during his four years in office. So it’s all the more noteworthy that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris chose DC’s own Ghostburger for their cheeseburger fix yesterday.
If you missed the news, ketchup: that’s the most in a two-year period. Ever.
More proof that our economic plan is working. pic.twitter.com/qfqq1L91FE
— President Biden (@POTUS) January 17, 2023
The team behind the Shaw smash burger and cheesesteak joint posted the President’s check on Instagram: two single-patty Ghostburgers (American cheese, red onion, pickles, and “spooky sauce”)—one with bacon for POTUS—plus two orders of crinkle cut fries. The total bill: $37.31. That includes a 15-percent service charge, but Ghostburger does not allow tips. “We pay a pretty high hourly wage for everybody and make sure that that’s not necessary,” co-owner Josh Phillips says.
The burgers, however, were no spur-of-the-moment craving. The takeout order was highly choreographed. The White House called the day before to let the restaurant know the President and VP would be placing an order, then sent their own cameraperson to capture the moment.
“The original plan was for him to call and place the order. They had a time crunch, so the guys actually told us what the order was a few minutes before he called,” Phillips says.
That’s not to say it was all scripted: Phillips says he asked Brittany Spaddy—Ghostburger’s first employee—if she could come in to help with a VIP. She figured it was the DC Mayor or maybe some celeb when she answered the phone and instead found the President of the United States on the other end of the line asking how business was going.
“She was floored,” Phillips says. “She said that she almost forgot his order she was so nervous talking to him.”
Little did she know she would not need to remember the order. Co-owner Kelly Phillips posted this video afterward (swipe through):
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Ghostburger started as a pop-up ghost kitchen inside mod-Mex restaurant Espita during the pandemic as a way to bring in extra income. It ultimately became so popular that it took over the entire space last September. It ranks among Washingtonian critic Ann Limpert’s favorites—though she’s partial to the Frenchie, with blue cheese, mayo, and a ton of caramelized onions.
This is not the first time Biden has frequented an eatery from Destination Unknown, the group behind Ghostburger, to promote his small business policies. His first in-person restaurant visit as President was to sister taqueria Las Gemelas in the Union Market District, where he picked up some barbacoa and carnitas tacos for Cinco de Mayo and touted the SBA’s Restaurant Revitalization Fund.
Phillips says they don’t have any particular connections in the White House: “I don’t personally know anyone who works there. I’m almost happier we don’t know anyone there because it just means they enjoy our food.”
This story has been updated with an interview from Josh Phillips.