Obama’s coming to Washington, but will he go out?
Posted: Friday, November 28, 2008 8:51 pm
WASHINGTON (AP) — At Ben’s Chili Bowl, the soon-to-be first family has an open invitation to dine for free on chili-smothered sausages. A couple of miles away, the owners of the city’s only Kenyan restaurant know exactly what they’ll serve if Barack Obama stops by for a taste of his African heritage: tilapia smothered in onions, tomatoes and cilantro. Washington residents far from the city’s power center are hopeful the 44th president will differ from his predecessor in more ways than just politics. The expectation is that Obama — already at ease in big cities from his time in Chicago — will venture into town more than President George W. Bush, who rarely made forays into unofficial Washington. “There’s a joke that around Lafayette Square, in the bars and restaurants, you had to turn the music down at 9 p.m. because the president went to bed,” said William Hanbury, president of the city’s tourism bureau. With the Obamas, “we’re hoping that they’ll be able to get out more and enjoy D.C.” Many recent presidents have had a somewhat distant relationship with the district, rarely venturing beyond downtown, presidential observers say. Bush prefers spending time in Crawford, Texas, and President Ronald Reagan seemed far more content at his California ranch. George H.W. Bush also wasn’t known for mixing with the locals, though he did put a Chinese restaurant on the map with frequent trips to the Peking Gourmet Inn in the suburb of Falls Church, Va. Bill Clinton was the exception. The former president’s forays included frequent jogs through the city, even stopping to refuel at McDonald’s. Shortly before taking office, he strolled through a business district in a black neighborhood, shaking hands with the locals. Lynne Breaux, head of the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington, said a president’s social habits are important. They set the tone for everyone else — particularly in difficult times. Published in The Messenger 11.28.08