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All We Can Eat
Posted at 08:00 AM ET, 08/09/2011

Smoke Signals: Obama needs to chew the fat


Obama's Meat and Greet: Burgers, not barbecue, top the president's restaurant agenda. (KEVIN LAMARQUE - REUTERS)
Last Wednesday, the Gastronome in Chief, who has visited Ray’s Hell-Burger in Arlington with the vice president and later with Russian president Dmitry Medvedev, treated five of his staffers to lunch at Spike Mendelsohn’s Good Stuff Eatery on Capitol Hill.

Obama has also dined at Ben’s Chili Bowl, Komi, Michel Richard Citronelle, Restaurant Nora and Equinox. Notice what’s missing?

That’s right, a barbecue restaurant.

Burgers are fine. And high-end dining is nice.

But for connecting with the common man — and let’s face it, the president knows these outings are televised photo-ops — there is nothing quite like barbecue.

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) gets it. She is hosting a barbecue in Ames this Saturday for the Iowa straw poll, a Republican fundraiser that, while non-binding, is regarded as a show of organizational strength. She follows in the footsteps of George W. Bush who, in 1999, served barbecue at the event. (Dan Quayle, also running for prez that year, handed out corn.)

Despite her Iowa barbecue plans, Bachmann blasted Obama for celebrating his 50th birthday last week with a barbecue. The White House soiree included A-list guests such as Jay-Z, Chris Rock and Tom Hanks as well as a performance by Stevie Wonder and Herbie Hancock. “One thing I guarantee you,” she said, “President Bachmann will be cancelling barbecues if we see the market go down and if we see the jobs report going down.”

No word at this writing on whether Bachmann is cancelling her Iowa barbecue.

Regardless of Bachmann’s plans, to win the downhome vote, Obama might want to pop into a local barbecue joint for his next outing. He could go to the local fave Rocklands Barbeque & Grilling Company, which, with its free-style approach to smoked pork, ribs, brisket and chicken, may appeal to the independent voter.

If he wanted to poach on the territory of potential Republican candidate Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, he could order up some slow-smoked beef brisket at the Lone Star State-themed Capital Q in Chinatown or Hill Country in Penn Quarter. If he wanted to show his conciliatory side, he could eat at Pork Barrel BBQ. Slated to open in the coming weeks in Del Ray, Pork Barrel boasts owners who were once staffers for former Sen. Jim Talent (R-Mo.).

If he preferred to hobnob with the well-heeled types, he could eat at Old Glory BBQ in toney Georgetown. To scour for votes in the ’burbs, he might check out any of the three Maryland outlets of Urban Bar-B-Que.

To shore up his base, he has his pick of funky joints such as Johnny Boy Carryout in Capitol Heights, Fat Face Bar-B-Que on East Capitol and Smokeshack Ribs in Fort Washington.

Although he’ll want to step carefully into Veg Territory — can’t look like a wimp, after all — he could maybe send a message about health, and court the arugula vote, with the judicious selection of a few light sides, like cucumber salad, Texas caviar (black-eyed pea salad) and greens. He’d do well, though, to stay away from such obesity enablers as mac ’n’ cheese.

The side-dish orders would also be a nice thing for the president to do to help the first lady’s Let’s Move initiative. And after Michelle Obama’s roundly ridiculed gaffe about Charlotte, N.C.’s “great” barbecue, a presidential visit to a local ’cue joint could help the prez mend fences with Barbecue Country and make some inroads into the just-folk vote, all while enjoying something other than a burger.

Or he could forget everything else and just go for barbecue because it tastes good. In that case, he might want to get the pork ribs at Mr. P’s.

Happy Anniversary, Maryland Barbecue. If Obama wants to venture deep into Barbecue Country, he might pack up the family and scoot over to Bel Air for the 10th annual Maryland State BBQ Bash this Friday, Aug. 12, from 4 to 10 p.m., and Saturday, Aug. 13, from noon to 10 p.m.

Friday features 37 amateur teams competing for a top prize of $200 and a Smokey Mountain cooker.

On Saturday, some of the nation’s top teams will be among the 63 competing for $12,500. They include Tuffy Stone’s Cool Smoke, Myron Mixon’s Jack Old South and Del Ray’s own Pork Barrel BBQ, fresh off a grand championship at the Safeway National Capital Barbecue Battle.

There will be live music by The Farm and Frankie Ballard. The contest is put on by the Bel Air Downtown Alliance, a non-profit organization that uses the proceeds to help develop the city’s downtown. The event is free.

By  |  08:00 AM ET, 08/09/2011

Categories:  Smoke Signals | Tags:  Jim Shahin

 
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