The politics of takeout: Biden brings back the presidential lunch run

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The morning phone call from a government number. The swarm of Secret Service agents descending with their dogs. The rumbling black SUV pulling up at the appointed hour. The bag of tacos.

The presidential lunch run is back. After going on hiatus during the tenure of former President Donald Trump — whose forays into retail politicking were awkward at best and who dined at exactly one restaurant in Washington during his time in the White House — President Joe Biden on Wednesday restored the tradition of using takeout to talk up his administration’s policies. Visiting Las Gemelas, a new taqueria in Washington’s rapidly gentrifying Union Market neighborhood, Biden was hoping to shine a light on his administration’s $28.6 billion restaurant relief program for businesses hurt by the pandemic.

But the Cinco de Mayo jaunt outside the White House grounds was also Biden’s chance to break loose of the building he’s described as a “gilded cage” and put on display the talent for schmoozing that is his primary political attribute. White House officials have described the President as eager for a return to the type of stops that will bring him up close to ordinary people. The restaurant, whose tacos come on “heirloom corn tortillas” and include toppings like fried cremini mushrooms, kale slaw and charred tomatillo, is owned in part by Mexican immigrants who benefited from an early version of a restaurant relief program Biden touted later Wednesday. The name, which means “twins” in Spanish, is an homage to the owner’s children. Both Biden and his press secretary self-admittedly butchered its pronunciation later in the day. Emerging masked from his SUV, Biden offered an enthusiastic greeting to the aproned worker sent out to greet him. Once inside the empty dining room, decorated with neon wall art, Biden consulted a white note card briefly before summoning an aide — “where’s my guy?” — to tell him exactly how much money Las Gemelas had been awarded by his administration.

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