Presidents’ Day is just around the corner, and for most of us that means a long weekend. What better way to celebrate a day off than at a restaurant named after one of our country’s great forefathers? OK, so not all of the restaurants listed below were named specifically after a president, but they share a likeness in one way or another. Plus, thanks to the Food Timeline (evidently made in the pre-Web 2.0 days but chock full of history), we’re suggesting dishes at each restaurant befitting of its namesake president.
In order of their presidencies (and forgive us if there are any presidential restos we forgot):
Washington Square Diner — Washington was a man who loved cherries, so order up a slice of pie ($3.95) at this long-standing 24-hour diner that’s popular with the NYU crowd. It’s not the city’s cheapest diner, but it’s got that old-school, down-home charm.
Eleven Madison Park — Madison’s favorite meal was purportedly Virginia ham, buttery rolls, apple pie, and cider, which isn’t quite the fare you’ll find at this upscale restaurant helmed by Daniel Humm. But the $125 set menu — comprised by a grid of 16 different ingredients that acts more of an exploratory guide than an instruction manual — does currently feature pork. And it’s almost a sure thing that the final product is tastier (or at least more artistic and creative) than baked ham.
Jackson Diner — Andrew Jackson quite liked lamb, so while the Indian cuisine served at this popular Jackson Heights (and Village offshoot) restaurant might have been out of the ordinary for the seventh president, he’d probably have liked their $18.95 lamb tandoori. And he could wash it down with Diwan punch (rum, mango, orange, pineapple, cranberry juice, light cream), which sort of resembles one of his drinks of choice, Daniel Webster’s punch, made from lemon, sugar, green tea, brandy, claret, champagne, bananas, orange pineapples, cherries, and strawberries.
The Harrison — Harrison’s favorite meal was burgoo, or squirrel and vegetable stew (yum). You won’t find that on the menu here, or anything that really resembles squirrel, but Harrison was also quite fond of hard cider, which is available. Get a $6 glass of New York’s own Original Sin hard cider and salute the ninth president.
Lincoln — Apparently Honest Abe started his day prosaically with black coffee and a single egg and occasionally toast. So he should visit this Jonathan Benno-run eatery come brunch. It’s probably fancier fare than he’s used to, but he could order the Proscuitto Cotto e Uovo, or poached eggs with grilled ham and bagnet verde, for $20. Although another dish he quite enjoyed was chicken fricassee, so maybe he could go with the Italian version of the dish — the $20 Pollo Alla Cacciatora, made with Four Story Hill Farm’s bird.
Fatty Johnson’s — Andrew Johnson, our 17th president, kept true to his Southern roots and enjoyed foods like hopping john and sweet potatoes. There aren’t any dishes that exactly correlate at this boozy pop-up restaurant from Zak Pelaccio and Company, but much of the food, like the deviled eggs ($8) and fried chicken stuffed with ham ($14), would surely appeal to a culinary sensibility south of the Mason-Dixon Line. (Lyndon Baines Johnson probably would have liked it, too.)
Abe & Arthur’s — Arthur is basically the forgotten president. His diet, too, was rather forgettable, with his favorite meals consisting of a mutton chop with a glass of ale or the odd yet sorta delicious-sounding macaroni pie with oysters. Come to this Meatpacking restaurant and order the $10 side of macaroni and cheese plus a half-dozen oysters ($18), mix ’em up, and you’ve got Chester’s fave food. Sorta.
Cleveland Donut Shop & Fried Chicken — Cleveland ate rather simple meals like corned beef and cabbage and pickled herring, and he disavowed French food. At this donut and chicken shop, perhaps he would have enjoyed a simple breakfast of two eggs any style, served with toast and corn beef hash ($4.99).
Roosevelt Food Court — Teddy was a big eater with international tastes, so he probably would have liked this Flushing food hall devoted to all sorts of Asian eats. Perhaps he would go for the cumin kebabs or the fiery Sichuan vegetarian soup chock full of lotus root and kelp. (And cousin FDR might like it, too. After all, he was a trailblazer when he and wife Eleanor served the English king and queen hot dogs at Hyde Park!)
Wilson Restaurant — Wilson was apparently disinterested in cuisine and ate a rather gross-sounding breakfast of two raw eggs in grape juice. However, he is also said to have enjoyed country hams, peach cobblers, butter and buttermilk, fresh eggs, hot biscuits, and ice cream. So perhaps he’d get the $7 pernil (roast pork), which he could wash down with a $3 vanilla shake.
Kennedy Fried Chicken — Classic French fare flourished while Kennedy was in office, but he also quite enjoyed roast chicken, mashed potatoes, and corn muffins, so he would do quite well at this fried chicken chain that’s currently at the epicenter of a naming dispute.
Clinton Street Baking Company — Bill might be embracing the veggie lifestyle nowadays, but we all know his secret love of junky foods. He’d probably have a ball at this homey, slightly Southern-influenced bakery and café, where he could gorge on dishes like the black angus cheeseburger ($14) or one of the many varieties of pie.
Obama Flavor C&S Food — Our current prez has a more sophisticated palate than some of the men who preceded him. This restaurant doesn’t offer the gourmet Mexican food of his beloved Topolobampo restaurant in Chicago, but it does offer a tasty macaroni pie. And since seafood stew was served at his inauguration dinner, perhaps he’d like the saltfish and akee, which comes from the Caribbean side of the menu.
So what’s the takeaway from all this? Mostly, our presidents were unadventurous eaters. But if you eat at their namesake restaurants, you won’t be!