There’s absolutely no question about it: The Obamas have great taste in restaurants. During their eight years in the White House, President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama made a point of trying out some of the coolest and most trendy spots in the world, from Tokyo’s Sukiyabashi Jiro (of Jiro Dreams of Sushi fame) to the insanely popular Rose’s Luxury in Washington, D.C. In New York City, they’ve dined at many of the city’s buzziest establishments like Blue Hill, Carbone, ABC Kitchen, Daniel, Red Rooster, and more. (In fact, the list is so exhaustive, it’s hard to keep track.) This is a family who loves to stay attuned to the cultural zeitgeist and the culinary scene, which is certainly not something that has always been the case with previous presidents — or our incoming one. Donald Trump, for example, is rarely seen dining out, but when he is, it’s at old-school establishments like 21 Club.
The Obamas have created an important model, helping to promote an overall cultural interest in wellness and support of local cuisine. Hopefully, it’s one that First Families of the future will continue to follow. In honor of their pioneering restaurant choices, here’s a look back at some of the best restaurants the Obamas ate at during their time in the White House.
Estela, New York President Obama made a big splash when he showed up to dine at chef Ignacio Mattos and Thomas Carter’s cozy, Mediterranean-inspired restaurant (which was named one of Bon Appétit’s Best New Restaurants in America in 2014 and one of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants in 2016) on Houston Street in September 2014. He sampled the burrata with salsa verde and charred bread, croquettes, and the endive salad with walnuts, anchovy, and ubriaco rosso. He has yet to try Mattos and Carter’s newer New York City spots Café Altro Paradiso and Flora Bar, but maybe he will as a civilian.
Red Rooster, New York The President brought plenty of attention to chef Marcus Samuelsson’s Harlem hot spot Red Rooster (which was new at the time) in March 2011, when he hosted a fundraising dinner for 50 of his supporters. The President and his guests ate braised short ribs, lobster salad with asparagus and peas, cornbread, and sweet potato donuts.
Blue Hill, New York The President and First Lady had a date night at Dan Barber’s famous New York City outpost in May 2009. What they ate from the super-local, seasonal menu was kept under wraps, but Michelle reportedly liked the martinis.
Cosme, New York POTUS and FLOTUS stopped into chef-owner Enrique Olvera’s popular Mexican restaurant (its chef Daniela Soto-Innes won the James Beard Rising Star Chef of the Year Award in 2016, and in 2015, the restaurant was nominated for Best New Restaurant by the James Beard Foundation) in the Flatiron District during their visit to New York City in September 2016. They had tuna tostadas, the famous dark carnitas, blue shrimp, burrata, and more.
State Road, Martha’s Vineyard The Obamas are regulars on Martha’s Vineyard and have been eating at Mary and Jackson Kenworth’s 60-seat, seasonally focused West Tisbury restaurant for the past six summers. Though State Road’s menu rotates based on what’s in its garden and surrounding farms, President Obama has been known to order all of the following more than once: the lobster salad with snap peas and fava beans, the pan-roasted vineyard striped bass with corn puree and roasted beets, wood-grilled sirloin with buttermilk fried onions, and the State Road chocolate bars. The restaurant has just brought in a new chef, James Beard Award–nominee Randy Rucker, and he’s already started adding his own touch to the menu, like swordfish belly crudo and Island Bay scallops. The Obamas will surely be sampling those when they return to the vineyard this summer.
Equinox, Washington, D.C. Just days before the inauguration in January 2009, Barack took Michelle to Todd Gray’s seasonally driven D.C. bistro to celebrate her 45th birthday. If you really want the full Obama experience, ask to sit at corner table 21 and order the truffle macaroni and cheese with elbow macaroni and Vermont cheddar.
The Source, Washington, D.C. This is another D.C. date night favorite of the Obamas. The couple went to this Wolfgang Puck restaurant for Michelle’s 47th birthday and had chef Scott Drewno’s Asian-fusion tasting menu.
Rose’s Luxury, Washington, D.C. Michelle first stopped into D.C.’s hottest restaurant (and one of the best restaurants in the entire U.S., according to Bon Appétit) in February 2015 with a group of eight. Chef Aaron Silverman reported that she and the group sampled most of the menu, which includes goat confit, carrots with yogurt and harissa, chocolate mousse, and a killer sausage-lychee salad. The Obamas returned again for the President’s birthday in August 2015. FYI, if you are not in the White House, this place is not easy to get in to. Prepare to wait in a very long line, but it’s worth your while.
Fig & Olive, Los Angeles Judd Apatow, Jamie Foxx, Jon Landau, and more of Hollywood’s biggest names (120 of them, to be exact) joined Obama at Fig & Olive in L.A. back in September 2011 for a private fundraising dinner. Chef Pascal Lorange whipped up rosemary lamb chops with chive gnocchi, striped bass filet en papillote, free-range organic chicken breast, and more for the $17,900-per-plate dinner.
Sukiyabashi Jiro, Tokyo President Obama ate at this three-Michelin-star restaurant in Tokyo (now internationally famous, thanks to Jiro Dreams of Sushi) with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Of the meal, Obama said: “Best sushi I’ve ever had in my life,” but he reportedly didn’t finish his meal.
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