Inauguration 2013: When in Washington, eat like the Obamas

If you’re looking for Washington’s hottest restaurants, you’d do well to take your cues from the commander in chief. Since 2009, President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama have hit the local restaurant scene as if it were the campaign trail, making well-documented visits to burger joints and pizzerias, high-end restaurants and Georgetown Cupcake.

While the first couple can certainly do highbrow, if there’s one defining foodstuff of this administration, it’s a cheddar cheeseburger, which the president has ordered at restaurants across the area. The more daring eater might be the first lady, who sought out Indian at the four-star Rasika and hipster sushi at Sticky Rice. The Obamas have made multiple trips to Alexandria and the District’s funky, developing H Street NE corridor, but they’ve rarely ventured to Maryland.

Here are some highlights of the Obamas’ culinary journey through the area. Go to goingout guide.com for a photo gallery of more than 40 restaurants that have served the first family.

DATE NIGHTS

When the president and first lady celebrate, they do it at some of the city’s most well-reviewed fine-dining restaurants, such as Komi or Citronelle (currently closed for renovations).

Bourbon Steak

The Obamas’ 20th wedding anniversary fell on Oct. 3, 2012, the same date as the first presidential debate. When they celebrated a few nights later, they chose this tony steakhouse at the Four Seasons Hotel in Georgetown, where the menu includes Wagyu beef steaks and lobster pot pie.

2800 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. 202-944-2026.
www.bourbonsteakdc.com
.

Vermilion

The luxe, red hues inside this three-star Old Town Alexandria American restaurant created an ideal environment for the couple’s Valentine’s Day dinner last year. Follow the Obamas’ lead and order one of pastry chef Tiffany MacIsaac’s desserts; they chose a chocolate truffle tart served with cacao nib ice cream.

1120 King St., Alexandria.
703-684-9669.
www.vermilionrestaurant.com
.

WORKING DINNERS

Last year, Obama’s reelection campaign launched a contest for donors who gave as little as $3 to land an invite to “Dinner With Barack.” The winners not only got to eat with the president, they also got meals at some fine restaurants.

Lincoln

Obama took four contest winners to this presidential-themed restaurant for lunch in June 2012. It was an appropriate choice, considering the president has frequently cited President Abraham Lincoln as one of his heroes (he took the oath of office in 2009 using Lincoln’s bible), and the downtown restaurant features art of the 16th president and a wall inscribed with the Emancipation Proclamation. What drew more buzz was Obama’s trendy starter: a kale salad.

1110 Vermont Ave. NW.
202-386-9200.
www.lincolnrestaurant-dc.com.

Mintwood Place

The first lady joined her husband and campaign supporters for dinner at this three-star French-American bistro in Adams Morgan. Though Chef Cedric Maupillier’s menu includes frogs’ legs and a beet “mountain pie,” from photos, it appears the president had a cheeseburger.

1813 Columbia Rd. NW.
202-234-6732.
www.mintwoodplace.com
.

CHEAP EATS

Like the rest of us, the president has the occasional hankering for a hot dog or a slice of pizza. None of these meals topped $20.

Ben’s Chili Bowl

Just days before his 2009 inauguration, the then-president-elect made a stop at one of Washington’s most iconic restaurants, which has been serving chili-smothered half-smokes to the masses since the late 1950s. While the staff buzzed with excitement and whipped out their phones for photos, Obama ordered a half-smoke and sweet tea, plus some cheese fries and a water for his dining companion. Though the tab was just $12, he left a $20 bill.

1213 U St. NW. 202-667-0909. www.benschilibowl.com.

Del Ray Pizzeria

On a 2011 Christmas shopping trip to Alexandria’s Potomac Yard, Obama stopped at this pizzeria for a few veggie-and-meat-loaded pies to go, each of which cost less than $20. Afterward, chef Eric Reid re-did the menu to reflect the pies the president had ordered: Ask for the Supreme Clientele, the Barack My World and the Obama-rama.

2218 Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria. 703-549-2999.
www.delraypizzeria.com
.

Taylor Gourmet

The 14th Street location of this Philadelphia-inspired hoagie shop got a visit from the president last year when he met with owners Casey Patten and David Mazza to talk tax proposals aimed at small businesses. According to the White House Web site, Obama noshed on the Spruce Street, which includes roast turkey, prosciutto, roasted red peppers and provolone on the shop’s crusty bread.

Multiple area locations. www.taylorgourmet.com.

BURGERS

Yes, they’re technically cheap eats, but the first family’s love of this fast-food staple runs so deep (and is so publicized) that it deserves its own category.

Shake Shack

Michelle Obama sparked a minor controversy in 2011 when the advocate for healthy eating dashed into this New York-born eatery in Dupont Circle for a ShackBurger (that’s a cheeseburger with lettuce, tomato and “ShackSauce”), fries, chocolate shake and Diet Coke. But everyone deserves an occasional splurge — even a 1,700-calorie one. Surely, this one can be burned off in a single SoulCycle class.

1216 18th St. NW. 202-683-9922. www.shakeshack.com.

Good Stuff Eatery

This Capitol Hill burger joint owned by former “Top Chef” competitor Spike Mendelsohn was among the first D.C. restaurants to get a repeat visit from the Obama family. The first visit came in May 2009, four months after the restaurant created its Prez Obama Burger for his inauguration; the burger (which is still on the menu, alongside the Michelle Melt) features applewood bacon, onion marmalade, Roquefort cheese and horseradish mayonnaise.

Multiple area locations. www.goodstuffeatery.com.

Related coverage

Going Out Guide: Inauguration events

D.C.’s food truck fleet lines up for its first inauguration

Go drinking with past presidents at the Willard

List of bars and restaurants that will be open 24-7 during inauguration weekend

Download this: PDF pocket guide to inauguration

More inauguration news from The Post

Lavanya Ramanathan is a features reporter for Style.

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