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From Culture to Cuisine, Obama Becoming a Man About Town -- in Most Places

President Obama and his family have settled into the city in his first six months in office, attending official functions and checking out eateries.

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By Steve Hendrix
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, July 19, 2009

Jan. 16: The Obamas and friends have an early birthday dinner for Michelle at Equinox on Connecticut Avenue NW.

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Since moving into the White House in January, President Obama has been to a Wizards game at Verizon Center, a parent-teacher conference in Bethesda and a youth soccer game in Palisades. He's gone for burgers at Five Guys and frozen custard in Alexandria. He's had a half-smoke at Ben's.

He has been stuck, motorcade and all, in a traffic jam at the Springfield Mixing Bowl.

Does that make him one of us?

Whenever a new occupant unpacks at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., a question arises that is of little note to the rest of the country but of intense interest to his new neighbors: Is this one going to be a president . . . or a resident? (As President Ronald Reagan observed, just one letter makes the difference.)

Washingtonians really want their home to be more to the incumbent than just a matte painting for bill-signing ceremonies. They want him to see more than fleeting, tinted glimpses through limousine windows. If he's going to live here, they want him to live here.

Feb. 6: The Obama family sees the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater perform at the Kennedy Center.

Whether Obama's local outings so far make him a Washingtonian depends on whom you ask.

Local restaurateurs are encouraged that the first couple has a taste for dining out. But A-list hosts are coming to terms with the fact that the Obamas don't seem big on private dinner parties (they have attended just one outside the White House, at the Georgetown home of adviser Valerie Jarrett).

Local parents can relate to the president's kid-centric logistical challenges, including one Saturday of back-to-back soccer games in different neighborhoods. Local activists and politicians wish he would include more of them in his photo ops. And preachers would like the president, who has attended only one Washington area church since taking office, to spend more time in local -- ahem, their -- pews.

The Rev. Ronald E. Braxton of Metropolitan AME Church in the District said he understands why Obama might be shying away from church shopping, given the intense, unseemly attention surrounding the president's choice of a house of worship.


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