UPDATED: Obama Dines at Liberty Tavern in Clarendon
The president ate dinner with four campaign supporters Thursday night.
President Barack Obama shared dinner at the Liberty Tavern in Clarendon with four lucky campaign supporters Thursday night.
Obama arrived at the restaurant at approximately 6:45 p.m. He left just before 8 p.m. It was his first visit to the Clarendon establishment.
The president had a tavern salad, which consists of field greens, breakfast radish and red wine vinaigrette -- Obama requested the vinaigrette on the side -- to start with. For his main course, he ordered the harpoon-caught swordfish, which is served Portuguese style with white beans, sweet peppers, lamb sausage escarole and littleneck clam sauce, according to the menu.
The president had sweet iced tea with his meal. He did not order dessert, said Mark Fedorchak, who co-owns the restaurant with his brother, Stephen Fedorchak, and Brian Normile.
"To get the call was like, 'Oh my god, oh my god,' " Mark Fedorchak said.
"But we were prepared for him. He has a lot of support staff, and the people from the White House were very gracious," he said. "When he arrived, he put us at ease immediately."
The kitchen felt the pressure of having such a high-profile customer, he said. Executive Chef Liam LaCivita, Sous Chef Miljohn Dimaano and Lyon Hall Executive Chef Andy Bennett prepared the meal.
Arlington County police, the Secret Service and U.S. Park Police were on scene during the dinner. One lane of Wilson Boulevard near the restaurant was closed, causing traffic on some streets in and around downtown Clarendon to slow to a crawl.
The sidewalk was temporarily shut down at Wilson Boulevard and North Hudson, where a small crowd grew as word spread that the president was nearby.
"I'm a big fan of Obama. I just wanted to see him," said 26-year-old Anthony Hall, who moved to Washington, D.C., from California about six months ago.
Hall said his manager at Pinkberry in Clarendon got a phone call that the president was in town having dinner.
"We ran out of the building to find him. We were like, 'Oh my god. Where is he? Where is he?'...This is kind of cool. It's new for us all."
Greg Cooper, 40, a Ballston resident, stopped to take a picture of the blocked street from Clarendon's Central Park.
"It's exciting because it’s a bar where me and my friends go after work, kind of the young professionals crowd," Cooper said. "That the president would choose this place, rather than somewhere in D.C., is very cool."
The meal was the prize for a "Dinner with Barack" contest Obama's campaign held earlier this year. A minimum $5 contribution was requested, but not required, to enter the contest.
The Obama campaign held a similar contest during the 2008 election.
The winners, according to a report distributed by the White House, were Juanita Martinez, a retired teacher from Brighton, Colo.; Wendi Smith, an artist and retired professor from Corydon, Ind.; Ken Knight, a U.S. Postal Service worker from Chandler, Ariz.; and Casey Helbling, a small business owner from Minneapolis.
The Liberty Tavern was closed during the president's meal.
"I don't get why they had to shut down the whole restaurant," said 25-year-old Robert Myers of Clarendon. "It would make the president seem more personal and accesible if other locals could come in and eat at the same time."
Obama and his supporters dined upstairs, which the press pool that travels with the president was briefly allowed to see.
"As the pool arrived, Mr. Knight was telling the president about himself, and could be heard saying something about Michael Jordan the basketball player, a reference at which the president smiled. Wendi Smith could be heard telling the president that her town is in southern Indiana and was the first capital of the state, which seemed to surprise the president," according to the press pool report.
After the president left, Liberty Tavern reopened to the public.
The downstairs bar was draped in cobwebs and other Halloween decorations. A couple of Secret Service agents lingered as the crowd started filing in.
"You've got to get a higher class of clientele," said Tony Sabo good naturedly as he shook Mark Fedorchak's hand.
The room was abuzz about the commander-in-chief's recent visit.
"It was just an incredible honor to have the president of the United States in," Normile said. "It was just a fantastic opportunity to host him and his constituents at the Liberty Tavern."