Except this year.
The Presidential Inaugural Committee has announced that its “reimagined” and streamed events include a virtual parade on Jan. 20. For the first time since 1949, there will be no inaugural balls — just a virtual celebration with Tom Hanks, Justin Timberlake and Demi Lovato. And D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D), in a joint statement with the governors of Maryland and Virginia, has taken the “extraordinary step” of urging Americans not to travel to Washington for the ceremony. With many people looking forward to celebrating the first female vice president, the lack of pomp and circumstance hits especially hard.
But it's not all bad news: You can join virtual events from home, tour online exhibitions to learn about presidents and first ladies and get a flavor of inaugurations past and present. If you're celebrating in your living room on Wednesday, local bars and restaurants have cooked up commemorative dishes, beers and cocktails to help make your sofa feel more festive, no matter how far you are from the Capitol.
Food and drink specials
Delaware’s most famous food export is Capriotti’s, a national chain of sandwich shops that began in Wilmington. President-elect Joe Biden is, of course, a fan: When the first Capriotti’s opened in D.C. in 2013, Biden told reporters, “This is going to settle, once and for all, the best sandwich in America is out of Wilmington, Delaware.” What did he take back to the White House? The Bobbie, Capriotti’s best-selling Thanksgiving sub, filled with turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce.
On Election Day, the sandwich-centric Fight Club pop-up at Beuchert’s Saloon unveiled its own delicious and refined version of the Capriotti’s classic, made with sausage stuffing and potato mayo, and it’s back on the Capitol Hill restaurant’s menu through inauguration ($15). In a nod to last year’s virtual tuna melt faceoff between Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) and vice president-elect Kamala D. Harris, Fight Club has also added the VP Melt, a sandwich containing tuna salad, cheese and a hard boiled egg ($15). Warner will be disappointed it’s not on a potato roll.
Fight Club isn’t the only Thanksgiving sandwich game in town: There’s a high-end version at the Columbia Room’s sandwich pop-up Your Only Friend, with smoked turkey and a “herbed poultry mayo” ($15), while local New England-inspired chain Jetties has made the Nobadeer (turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce) into one of its signature sandwiches ($11). And while the D.C. branch of Capriotti’s has closed, there are still locations in Rosslyn and Annapolis.
Fight Club: 623 Pennsylvania Ave. SE. fightclubdc.com.
Your Only Friend: 124 Blagden Alley NW. youronlyfrienddc.com.
Jetties: Locations in D.C. and Maryland. jettiesdc.com.
Capriotti’s: Locations in Rosslyn and Annapolis. capriottis.com.
Everyone knows Biden has a sweet tooth: Before September’s presidential debate, he posted an Instagram photo of his “performance enhancers”: a pint of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream. Eater reported last year that Biden’s campaign had spent more $10,000 at Jeni’s; the Ohio-based company, founded by Biden supporter Jeni Britton Bauer, is releasing a special White House Chocolate Chip flavor in honor of the inauguration, and a nod to Biden’s preferred chocolate chips.
Not to be outdone, Ice Cream Jubilee is releasing four new flavors inspired by the incoming president and vice president — Vanilla Chocolate Chip, Cuppa Joe, Cardamom Amaretto and Rosé Mimosa. They’re available as “tasting flights,” which include four small scoops and a pint of your favorite ($22), in person at Ice Cream Jubilee’s three area stores, or in a set of four pints ($48), available for pickup or delivery.
Pizzeria Paradiso is teaming up with Ice Cream Jubilee for its Ice Cream Float Parade, offering four floats made small-batch sodas or local craft beers between Jan. 19 and 21. The Banana Bourbon Ka(ra)mala Beer Float, for example, pours RAR’s Groove City Hefeweizen, which has notes of banana and clove, over Ice Cream Jubilee’s Banana Bourbon Caramel. (Nonalcoholic floats are $7; beer floats are $10.)
Ice Cream Jubilee: Locations in D.C. and Virginia. icecreamjubilee.com.
Pizzeria Paradiso: Locations in D.C. and Maryland. eatyourpizza.com.
Before Astro Doughnuts opened its permanent storefront, it popped up at a Chinatown coffee shop to serve Barack Obama-themed doughnuts during the 2013 inaugural festivities. Candidate-themed doughnuts followed during the 2016 and 2020 presidential campaigns, so it’s no surprise that Astro is offering a Biden Doughnut ($3.95) inspired by his love of ice cream: A “vanilla chocolate chip doughnut with vanilla glaze, mini chocolate chip sprinkles and vanilla chocolate chip buttercream, topped with a mini ice cream sugar cone.” It’s available Jan. 18-20.
If that sounds like too much, Maryland chocolatier Chouquette offers chocolate-covered vanilla bean caramels decorated with images of Biden and Harris, aviator sunglasses and Chuck Taylors (starting at $15 for a box of five).
Astro Doughnuts: Locations in D.C. and Falls Church. astrodoughnuts.com.
Chouquette: Available at chouquette.us.
Planning on toasting the new administration on Jan. 20? You’re not alone. A pair of inauguration-themed beers called Amtrak Joe’s Pilsener and Madam Veep’s IPA, produced by Atlas Brew Works in collaboration with a new company called Occasion Ales, presold its entire run of 270 cases. But there are still festive drinks to be found.
Jack Rose cocktail mastermind Andy Bixby has crafted a four-course “progressive cocktail tasting” that moves from a sparkling Americano-esque refresher to a riff on the brandy Alexander. Some assembly is required for the drinks, but instructions and garnishes are included ($75 for eight full-size drinks).
Bluejacket’s newest beer carries the self-explanatory name #46, and the hazy IPA will be available at the Navy Yard brewery and for delivery on Jan. 18, and at the Roost Jan. 19, though preordering is suggested ($15 for four 16-ounce cans). Republic Restoratives’s limited-edition bottles of Purpose Rye whiskey, etched with the words “I’m Speaking” as a tribute to the vice president-elect, are back in stock and available for local delivery or pickup at the Ivy City distillery ($79).
Bluejacket: 300 Tingey St. SE. bluejacketdc.com.
Jack Rose Dining Saloon: 2007 18th St. NW. jackrosediningaloon.com.
Republic Restoratives: 1369 New York Ave. NE. republicrestoratives.com.
If ordering food, drinks and desserts from multiple restaurants seems like too much work, consider one of the inauguration party kits available from restaurants and groups. The female restaurateurs behind the Women’s Food Fest have joined forces for the Inaugural Swag Bag, which includes 13 items, such as a bottle of California sparkling rosé selected by Cork’s Diane Gross; pasta handmade by Jamie Leeds of Hank and Mitzi’s; and cookies from Doron Petersan of Sticky Fingers. The gift basket ($140) can be picked up at Cork on 14th Street NW or delivered on Jan. 19 or 20.
Neighborhood Provisions, the delivery arm of the Neighborhood Restaurant Group (Iron Gate, the Roost, Red Apron Butcher), offers an Inauguration Party Box ($75) containing six sliders, two Ridin’ With Biden cocktails, patriotic yo-yos and a choice of a Biden-and-Harris-themed face mask from Scout and Indiana or a Kamala D. Harris acrylic pin, for pickup or delivery on Jan. 19. Both souvenirs are sold by Made in D.C., which has a shop at the Roost.
The swearing-in ceremony begins at noon, and if you’re planning on sleeping in, Baker’s Daughter — the all-day Ivy City cafe from Matt Baker of the Michelin-starred Gravitas — offers a special home brunch for two. It includes pastries, coffee or espresso drinks and a choice of entrees, such as chorizo, egg and cheese breakfast taquitos or shakshuka with toasted focaccia ($46 for two people; $64 with a bottle of prosecco). Compass Rose, meanwhile, has created a package for revelers with a sweet tooth: Among the treats in the Inauguration Watch Party Kit are funfetti blondies, a bula snickerdoodle and a slice of vanilla and chocolate frosting slab cake ($30; $50 with a bottle of sparkling wine).
Baker’s Daughter: 1402 Okie St. NE. bakersdaughterdc.com.
Compass Rose: 1346 T St. NW. compassrosedc.com.
Neighborhood Provisions: nrgprovisions.com.
Women’s Food Fest: exploretock.com/letstalkdc.
Events on the official inaugural calendar have slowly trickled out, even while the Presidential Inaugural Committee and local leaders urge residents to stay at home. They include a tribute to lives lost to the coronavirus at the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool on Jan. 19 at 5:30 p.m., and the Field of Flags, a public art display of 191,500 American, state and territorial flags on the Mall between Third and 13th streets NW, symbolizing people who aren’t traveling to the inauguration. See bideninaugural.org for updated information.
“With malice towards none; with charity for all.” “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” “Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.” Inaugural addresses have provided some of the most stirring and memorable moments of the presidency. Ahead of the 59th inaugural, Claire Jerry, a curator of political history at the National Museum of American History, provides an insider’s guide to inaugural addresses, using excerpts from speeches and objects from the Smithsonian’s collection. Jan. 17 at 4:30 p.m. Free; registration required on cathedral.org.
Veteran inauguration-goers frequently prefer balls organized by State Societies — nonprofit organizations that promote the culture of individual states — to the official inaugural balls, as the state balls are smaller and have more cultural flavor. State Societies representing the homes of the president and vice president-elect tend to be popular draws, and the California State Society had planned to hold its inaugural celebration at the Ritz-Carlton. Instead, the society is moving its Golden State Celebration online. The lineup includes performances by “Rise Up” singer Andra Day and the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles, as well as appearances by Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) and other California lawmakers. Jan. 19 at 3 p.m. Membership in the California State Society ($20 individual, $40 family) is required to register. californiastatesociety.com.
Over the last four years, opponents of the Trump administration sought comfort in revisiting “The West Wing,” asking themselves, “What would Jed Bartlet do?” Actor Martin Sheen, who portrayed the fictional president over seven seasons, joins Ken Walsh of USA Today at this Smithsonian Associates event to discuss how television’s views of government have changed our views of actual leaders, and what we can learn from the fictional portrayal of politicians. Jan. 19 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. $20-$25. smithsonianassociates.org.
Just in time for the inauguration, there’s a new biography of the vice president-elect. “Kamala’s Way: An American Life,” written by former Los Angeles Times reporter and Sacramento Bee editorial page editor Dan Morain, is the subject of a live virtual discussion organized by Politics and Prose. A limited number of free tickets are available, and purchasing a copy of the book guarantees admission. Jan. 19 at 8 p.m. Free-$35.99.
Reflections on the Current Political Climate: Where We Are and Where We’re Headed
Busboys and Poets has been a go-to on previous inauguration days, both as a place for celebration and a destination for peaceful protest. This year is centered around an online conversation with restaurant founder Andy Shallal, political activist Angela Davis and People for the American Way president Ben Jealous, as well as a performance by the Dupont Brass Band. Jan. 19 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Free. busboysandpoets.com.
Food historian Adrian Miller offers a behind-the-scenes look at the people who kept the White House running in his book, “The President’s Kitchen Cabinet: The Story of the African Americans Who Have Fed Our First Families from the Washingtons to the Obamas.” On the night of the inauguration, Miller has organized a celebration that goes beyond the kitchen. Guests will hear from Charlie Redden, the Navy veteran who became the first executive chef of the White House Mess, and Miller himself, and receive recipes for a make-at-home feast inspired by the president, vice president, or both. But there also are performances by choreographer Parijat Desai, DJ Big Styles and Haitian American singer Such; and talks with author Jesse J. Holland and Wanda Joell, the first African American woman to serve on Air Force One. A portion of ticket sales benefit food-related causes, including the Food Studies Program at Spelman College and the James Beard Foundation Food and Beverage Investment Fund for Black and Indigenous Americans. Jan. 20 from 8:30 p.m. to midnight. $46-$70. adrianemiller.com.
During a normal inauguration, the sidewalks downtown and along the Mall are packed with pop-up shops — tables containing a wide variety of T-shirts, knit hats, pins and flags bearing the name and face of the president-to-be. If you want to commemorate this year’s event, though, you’ll have to turn elsewhere.
Shop Made in D.C. has put together a special page on its website for inauguration items. Harris is an outsize presence — an 11-inch crocheted doll by Hooked and Loopy, “Madam Vice President” mugs and shirts, an “I’m Speaking” embroidery kit, multiple prints by local artists — but there’s sure to be a perfect souvenir for your home, or something to send to a friend across the country whose plans to travel to Washington have been postponed indefinitely.
Shop Made in D.C.: Four locations. shopmadeindc.com.