Dear Mr. Gold:
In your opinion, which presidential candidate seems to have the best taste in food?
—Shirin, Las Vegas
Like everyone else, I would like to think that the politicians I vote for have more discerning palates than the ones I happen not to support, but this is not always the case. For years, a seven-course-beef Vietnamese restaurant I frequented (now closed), featured as the most prominent item of its decor a signed photograph of Dan Quayle, while Jerry Brown was famous for patronizing a margarita mill across the street from Paramount Studios. I was dismayed to discover that George W. Bush’s favorite restaurant was Cooper’s, a barbecue pit in Llano, Texas, which I happened to enjoy. Bill Clinton’s favorite restaurant was the mediocre Little Rock branch of the Mississippi steakhouse Doe’s Eat Place. And Ronald Reagan loved the old Chasen’s almost as much as I did. But while John McCain tends to prefer poorly regarded Tex-Mex joints on the occasions he isn’t barbecuing in his backyard, Barack Obama is apparently a regular at Rick Bayless’s Topolobampo in Chicago’s River North district, a refined place that is among the best Mexican restaurants in the United States. When Obama was an undergraduate at Occidental College here in Eagle Rock, he was a fan of Casa Bianca, which happens to be my own favorite place to go for pizza. And he seems to have a serious taste for Hawaii’s kine grindz: “I might go to Zippy’s. I might go to Rainbow Drive-In. I might go get some shave ice,” he told a crowd in Honolulu this summer, referring to dives that specialize in chili rice and gigantic bowls of saimin noodles. The man clearly knows how to eat.
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