Modern-era presidents aren’t slouches in the gastronomic department, either. John F. Kennedy, who hailed from an affluent family and enjoyed a tony maritime upbringing, had an affinity for Pernod-tinged oysters. Lyndon Johnson, a Southerner, often requested barbecued chicken from the White House chef and even used the homey, comforting dish to exercise a bit of “barbecue diplomacy”, as he called it, to persuade and woo a host of world leaders over dinner. Best known for his love of junk food (and jogging to McDonald’s during his morning ‘exercise’ runs), Bill Clinton was a lover of artery-clogging dishes like fried chicken, porterhouse steaks, and enchiladas.
Barack Obama, on the other hand, is still regarded as having one of the most sophisticated presidential palates in history. By supporting local Washington, DC restaurants during his tenure, he used his influence to usher in a renewed interest in fine dining and healthy eating.
On January 20th, Joe Biden, Obama’s former Vice-President, will be sworn in as the United States’ 46th president and his well-documented love of regional comfort food will once again be on display.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
For many Americans and, indeed, for many people around the world Joe Biden’s electoral victory is cause for celebration. Just don’t count on him imbibing with a glass of Champagne—he is a known teetotaler and much prefers his bubbly in the form of a frosty glass of soda. As a politician - Biden was a senator for 36 years and Barack Obama’s Vice-President for 8 - he’s built his brand on being a relatable everyman, and his food choices certainly align with his public persona. Proud Delawareans (this author included) are ecstatic that finally - finally - our diminutive state will finally receive some recognition for our oft-overlooked dining landscape.
Photo by: David Mark
Joe Biden’s palate may lean more proletarian than presidential, but it’s part of his enduring charm and appeal. Those eager to follow in his culinary footsteps need to look no further than his hometown.
Don’t know where Delaware is located? Never heard of it? Don’t feel bad - an alarmingly large swath of Americans don’t know, which is concerning given that it was the first of the colonies to become a state. It’s easy to understand how the First State could be overlooked; it’s the second smallest state in the United States. To put it in geographic size context, Delaware is to the United States as Monaco is to Europe.
Because Delaware is such a tiny state, residents are fortunate (or unfortunate, depending on how one looks at it) to run in to local politicians frequently and a Joe Biden spotting is a regular event, especially at area eateries. It’s true that though he may soon be dining in posh Michelin-starred restaurants on Capitol Hill again, he prefers the simple but well-done fare of his hometown and is especially partial to wife Jill’s Italian-American dishes, like chicken parmesan and spaghetti al pomodoro.
A President's Preference
Delaware’s favourite son may be headed to the White House, but his tried-and-true slate of local haunts stand ready for presidential visits should he miss his beloved First State food.
510 N. Union Street, Wilmington, Delaware
Local favourite Capriotti’s may be one of dozens of Delaware sandwich shops, but it’s true claim to fame is being known as the originator of The Bobbie (also known as Thanksgiving on a roll) - a Biden favourite. Shredded roasted turkey, bread stuffing, and cranberry sauce are tucked into a mayonnaise-smeared long roll, conjuring up memories of the American holiday. Joe has been a fan of the trademarked sandwich and patron of the flagship location for more than 40 years. As he said in 2013 when being interviewed by a reporter, “The best sandwich in America is out of Wilmington, Delaware.” Talk about a ringing endorsement.
2600 Concord Pike, Wilmington, Delaware
Delawareans like to say that everyone knows Joe, but everyone really knows Charcoal Pit or ‘The Pit’ as it’s known by locals. The 64-year-old malt shop continues to be a hotspot for high-school students looking to grab a burger and milkshake after a weekend sporting event. Call Joe Biden young at heart, because the septuagenarian loves the comfort food menu consisting of quarter-pound burgers, chilli dogs, club sandwiches, and fries. Occasionally, he deviates from his usual order with a hefty crab-cake platter. The owners of the hallowed restaurant note that Joe has been a customer for decades. In his teenage sporting years, he famously walked out of the then-segregated restaurant in protest when his African-American teammate was refused service. Perhaps Charcoal Pit can be credited as the birthplace of the future president’s political ambitions.
3526 Philadelphia Pike, Claymont, Delaware
Certainly, the city of Philadelphia is world-renowned for the cheesesteak, but Delaware also has a pretty good steak game, and Biden often honours his Claymont roots (he attended secondary school at lauded private school Archmere Academy) by visiting the shop where he is known to order a cheesesteak with fried onions, ketchup, and of course melted American cheese. How often does ‘number 46’ visit? Let’s just say several photos of Biden grace the walls, including a signed note from the man himself.
1600 Delaware Avenue, Wilmington, Delaware
How does one celebrate a presidential run announcement? To let Biden tell it, the answer is by ordering a few slices of Brooklyn-style pizza (long, wide thin-crust slices) from the Trolley Square corner pizzeria that offers an impressive rotating roster of pies as well as calzones, stromboli, and Italian standards like lasagna, eggplant parmigiana, and baked ziti (another Biden indulgence).
535 S. College Avenue, Newark, Delaware
Imagine attending university to get a degree in... ice cream. At University of Delaware, Biden’s alma mater, one certainly could. The college campus has a full-production onsite creamery that recently churned out a new flavour to honour its most famous alumnus, who happens to be an ice cream obsessive. The flavour pays homage to Biden by recreating his favourite flavour profile—vanilla chocolate chip. What’s the flavour called? Red, White, and Biden. Naturally.