Donald Trump catered a White House reception for the Clemson Tigers with a table full of fast food. Photograph by Shealah Craighead / White House.
In the final days of his presidency, Donald Trump couldn’t be more isolated from the city in which he resides. But even before the heavy barricades and National Guard troops fortressed a sizable chunk of DC, he never made any attempt to be part of the local community. Case in point: In his four years in office, Trump only visited a single District restaurant—the one in his own Pennsylvania Avenue hotel.
To be fair, Trump was never going to be like Barack Obama, who was known for hitting up trendy hotspots for date night. And Republican presidents have historically ventured into mostly-blue DC far less than their Democratic counterparts. We all know about Trump’s love of fast-food; he sent a former bodyguard to make McDonald’s runs and catered White House events with Burger King and Domino’s. (Although as far as we know, he’s never actually stepped inside a DC fast-food spot himself.)
Plus, Trump is a creature of habit. When he did venture out for a meal at the Trump hotel’s steakhouse, BLT Prime, he pretty much always ordered the same thing: shrimp cocktail, fries, and well-done steak. It was a place where he knew he could get exactly what he wanted exactly how he wanted it—right down to the fans cheering him at the door.
In 2016, Trump told attorneys “there aren’t that many” great restaurants in Washington as part of a deposition in a lawsuit with celebrity chef Geoffrey Zakarian. But he later flip-flopped, hinting that he might actually venture out to eat somewhere that didn’t bear his name.
“In Washington, you do have some great restaurants, and I’m going to start going to them,” Trump said in an interview with the Larry O’Connor Show in November 2017.
Why hadn’t he yet? “I was accused the other day. Well, when I leave the White House, which is seldom, I always go to my hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue, and they say, ‘He should go to other places.’ And I never thought of it. And I’m going to start doing that. I’m going to go around.”
Some speculated Cafe Milano was a potential destination. After all, members of his Cabinet frequented the Georgetown Italian restaurant often enough that in the early days of the administration it was dubbed “the second White House cafeteria” in Page Six. Michelin-starred Inn at Little Washington—though 70 miles from DC—was another possibility. After all, chef Patrick O’Connell went to the White House in November 2019 to accept the National Medal of Arts and National Humanities Medal from Trump.
“I think the First Lady and I will have to stop by very soon, because it sounds good to me, and I’ve heard incredible things,” Trump said at the ceremony.
Ultimately, though, none of that came to pass. And, let’s be honest, there aren’t a lot of places around DC where Trump would have been welcomed by staff or fellow patrons. If he wasn’t outright asked to leave—like former press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was at Virginia’s Red Hen—he’d likely have been met with booing and cursing from other diners. And any restaurant that hosted him—no matter its bipartisan stance—would have no doubt faced backlash by mere association.
Technically, Trump has one last night of his presidency to hit the town. But it’s a town whose dining scene has been devastated by a pandemic he hasn’t taken seriously. And it’s a town that’s heavily boarded up due to threats from his supporters. Instead of to-go, he might just want to go.