Joe Biden made headlines on his first Sunday as president. On Jan. 24 after church, the Biden family motorcade stopped for bagels at Call Your Mother, a deli in Georgetown. The visit signaled the new president’s willingness to take advantage of the lively local food scene.
Biden’s predecessor ate in a D.C. restaurant once, and that was at the steakhouse in the Trump International Hotel, according to Washingtonian. So Biden’s lunch outing gave many local restaurateurs, some of them Jews, hope that they, too, could serve the commander-in-chief a memorable meal.
“Yes, we’d love to serve the president some soup,” said Sara Polon, co-founder of SouperGirl. Her restaurant in D.C.’s Takoma neighborhood specializes in kosher vegan soups, which are also sold in grocery stores. Polon said she’s never had a presidential visit, but she had pushed for one during the Obama years. She said that kind of pressing the flesh and passing the salt is meaningful to the people of Washington.
“It’s important for presidents and vice presidents and administration officials to really try to support the local community,” Polon said. “D.C. is more than just the White House and Congress. D.C. is a thriving city with a local scene and a local economy that needs help.”
Char Bar in Foggy Bottom is another Jewish-owned eatery that would welcome a presidential visit. The kosher restaurant specializes in steaks, burgers, deli sandwiches and BBQ. Owner Michael Chelst said a Biden visit would mean a lot.
“It’s exciting,” Chelst said. ”It makes people feel special. People who work in the kitchen feel good. People who are coming in feel good. More importantly, it makes the community feel good. And in our case, as a Jewish institution, when they hear about it, it makes the Jewish community feel appreciated.”
And to sweeten the deal, Chelst said he is willing to put up some University of Delaware posters. Both Biden and Chelst’s daughter are alumni.
Ran Nussbacher, CEO of Shouk, said a Biden visit to one of his two locations specializing in Israeli street food would send an important message about one of the president’s top priorities.
“President Biden, being as focused as he and his administration are on fighting climate change, should make a priority to visit an establishment like ours that is serving plant-based food, specifically as a way to address our climate change issues,” Nussbacher said. “And I think it fits very much in line with his policy.”
If Biden is in the mood for something sweet, he could head up Connecticut Avenue to Baked By Yael, across from the National Zoo. Owner Yael Krigman said she specializes in bagels, cake pops and other sweets. She regrets never getting a presidential visit during the Obama administration, but she hasn’t lost hope.
A purchase by the president has its own multiplier effect, Krigman said.
“It’s certainly meaningful personally. It’s certainly meaningful professionally, because it’s great public exposure. And I think it’s meaningful for the country as a whole. Small businesses are the backbone of our economy. And I think that the head of our country has an obligation to support us, not just with policies, but also with their time and their attention.”
But what kind of take-out is fit for the leader of the Free World? Polon recommends one of her Greek lentil soups or a homemade vegan calzone “that I think he would love.” Chelst would start the president off with a helping of his brisket nachos and some edamame. For the main course, he’d serve Biden “The New Yorker,” a corned beef and pastrami sandwich. Chelst said these dishes are popular with customers, so why not Biden?
Nussbacher would like the president to try his Shouk Burger, a veggie burger served in pita. As for Krigman, she recommends the president try one of her bagel sandwiches and for dessert, a cake pop, black and white cookie and maybe one of her “duffins,” which is part cake doughnut, part muffin. And she’d recommend the president take home some challah as “it makes amazing French toast.”
While these Jewish restaurateurs would welcome a presidential visit, he isn’t their dream customer. If Polon could have anyone in the world come eat at SouperGirl, it would be Israeli actress Gal Gadot.
“She’s Wonder Woman, and I’m SouperGirl. And we both speak Hebrew. So, you know, superhero to superhero. I think that’d be a lot of fun,” Polon said.
If Chelst could have anyone walk into his restaurant, his first pick would be his father, who’s been dead for 12 years. Among the living, his choice is Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Why the supreme leader of Iran and sworn enemy of the United States? Well, because Char Bar is a “restaurant of bringing people together,” Chelst said.
“I would like to see the ayatollah come in here, dine in here, celebrate with our community as a sign of great hope for our Jewish world,” Chelst said.
Krigman said her dream customer is Vice President Kamala Harris.
“Obviously, I would more than welcome the president. But I think that Vice President Harris is such an inspiration as a woman,” Krigman said. “My whole lifetime, we’ve never had a woman vice president or president. And just to be able to meet somebody in person that has shattered that glass ceiling would be a tremendous honor.”