WASHINGTON – What does the president-elect order on his first Saturday afternoon since moving into town? A chili dog and cheese fries.
Obama said it was his first time visiting Ben's Chili Bowl and "it was terrific." 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.
After Obama's motorcade wandered through the U street district, passing the African-American Civil War Memorial and a flee market selling shirts that bear his face, he and Fenty surprised the restaurant around lunchtime. Patrons shrieked with delight and surprise as they saw his face. A mother blushed as Obama held her baby in his arms. The president-elect and the mayor moved slowly through the restaurant's crowded rooms, shaking hands and getting pictures taken with patrons.
Still, they came there to eat. "Where the food at?" he finally asked the counter staff, drawing laughs from them and nearby patrons.
He and Fenty ordered a house specialty, a Chili Half-Smoke — a quarter-pound half pork and beef smoked sausage on a steamed bun with mustard, onions and chili sauce — along with a big helping of some cheese fries.
They found a small table. They had the popular food. They even chatted it up with nearby customers at their tables. But something was still missing: the shredded cheese. Obama yelled for some — "not the Velveeta" kind, he said — and it was quickly delivered.
Word must have gotten out he was in the area: After Obama and Fenty had their meal and left the building, dozens of people who had lined up before security barriers cheered him on as walked toward his motorcade.