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Posted at 4:52 PM ET, 01/15/2009

Cuisine From Obama's Hometowns Comes to Town

By Julia Beizer

During the election, we receivers-of-press-releases grew weary of all the Chicago- and Arizona-themed food and drink out there. The specials were designed allegedly as a tip of the hat to the home states of Obama and McCain, but the cynics in all of us just saw it as a way for marketers to tap into civic pride and suck dollars out.

I still think that's a pretty fair assessment, but after talking to a few chefs, sommeliers and GMs last week, it occurred to me that creativity borne out of marketing duress is still creativity all the same. Here's our own tip of the hat to some Illinois-, Hawaii- and Delaware-themed specials around town -- along with a list of restaurants offering $44 fixed-price menus in honor of Prez #44.


From Friday through Tuesday, belly up to the bar at Bistro Bis and sample Chicago-style treats like a hot dog, an Italian beef grinder and a Shrimp de Jonghe casserole (a recipe inspired by Chicago's De Jonghe Hotel). Prices range from $8 to $16 and the menu will be available from 3 p.m. until close, which could be later than 1 a.m. depending on crowds at the restaurant.

EatBar's also getting in on the Chicago-themed specials. From 4:30 until 11 p.m. on Tuesday, the pub's celebrating the new administration with an "In With the New" party. Expect Italian beef sliders, Italian sausage pigs-in-a-blanket and three kinds of Chicago-style dogs from the Neighborhood Restaurant Group's new venture, Red Apron. On Inauguration Eve -- ahem, Jan. 19 -- the bar's throwing an "Out With the Old" party complete with Texas brisket, barbecue and chili. Menu prices range between $6 and $10 both nights.


A nod to Obama's birthstate, Fyve Restaurant Lounge challenged Chef John Zaner from the Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua in Hawaii to create a menu that showcases the flavors of the Aloha state. The $38 menu includes an ahi carpaccio appetizer, pork potsticker, entree of Kona Kampachi and dessert of coconut-milk-and-sweet-potato pie. The menu is available through the 20th.

Joe Palma, chef de cuisine at Westend Bistro, has also created a Hawaii-themed tasting menu. Hamachi tartare, sauteed mahi mahi and mango cheesecake parfait make up the offerings. The three course meal is available from Jan. 17 until the 20th and costs $85 ($105 with wine flight).

A Little Bit of Both

The four-course menu at PS 7's jaunts from the flavors of Illinois to the fish of Hawaii. For $44.44 per person, diners start with an amuse of a Chicago-style hot dog, followed by a thin, crisp pizza topped with spicy sauce and charcuterie. Pan-seared trout over pancetta-potato-and-onion home fries come next. What's so Illinois-themed about that? The topping, according to St. Louis-bred general manager Robert Hall. An egg yolk tops the fish, becoming a dressing of sorts. Hall says such a meal is common on Midwestern camping trips. Hawaii tastes complete the menu: think roasted pork loin over noodles and a chocolate-banana-passion fruit torte.

Oya's principal offerings during Inaugural season are of the drinkable variety. Diners can sample wines with Illinois or Obama themes. For example, two of the offerings are Lynfred Winery's Vin de City, wines with labels that show the Chicago skyline. I can't resist mentioning the restaurant's Spam sushi special. Allegedly popular in Hawaii, the dish combines sushi rice, seaweed and a slab of the processed meat. Sample the dish -- along with a glass of M. Lawrence Obama Brut sparkling wine -- for $15.

Yes, yes, even Biden's Delaware gets some love. Nage, the local outpost of a Delaware restaurant, offers a Biden brunch on Sunday and Wednesday. As our colleagues over at Inauguration Watch reported months ago, the Delaware-inspired dishes -- Pun'kin Chuckin Pancakes, Northern Delaware Scrapple -- come with entertainment by a Biden impersonator. Costs range between $7 and $18 and the menu will be offered between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.

Prix Fixes
Multi-course menus for $44 are also common this week. Here's a sampling:

2941 (a three-course tasting menu at the bar)
Acadiana (also offering $44 bottles of wine)
Ceiba (also offering $44 bottles of wine)
DC Coast (also offering $44 bottles of wine)
Domaso ($20 at lunch)
PassionFish (also offering $44 bottles of wine)
TenPenh (also offering $44 bottles of wine)
Urbana (includes wine pairings)
Vermilion (also offering $44 bottles of wine, $11-$19 two-course lunch meals)

Talulla's prix-fixe is $38 and the restaurant will also offer $44 bottles of wine. As I mentioned in this post, Cafe Atlantico, Jaleo, Oyamel and Zaytinya will offer fixed-price meals for lunch and dinner.

For more inaugural dining deals, check out OpenTable's list of restaurants.

-- Julia

By Julia Beizer  | January 15, 2009; 4:52 PM ET
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A heads-up... "cuisine" is misspelled in the headline.

Posted by: textdoc | January 16, 2009 5:47 AM | Report abuse

Fixed -- thanks!

Posted by: Julia Beizer | January 16, 2009 8:58 AM | Report abuse

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