We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.
Michael Landrum has never been one to suck up to the rich and powerful, so to hear the owner of Ray’s Hell Burgers suddenly turn deferential to President Obama took Y&H by surprise. (Michael, I’ll have the cell phone on all night, so you can call and bitch about this intro.)
Getting info from the chronically talkative toque is usually easy. But when Obama and Biden visit Ray’s Hell Burgers? Waterboarding wouldn’t have parted Landrum’s lips.
Did the president’s staff call ahead to make arrangements or was this a surprise visit? “The less I say about how the president got here, the better,” Landrum says. What did Obama order? “He had a cheeseburger,” the owner allows. What kind of cheese? “Any details beyond that are his private business,” Landrum adds.
[Nevermind that this video spills all the details of Obama and Biden’s orders. The president got a cheddar cheeseburger, medium-well, with spicy mustard, lettuce, and tomato. The VP ordered a medium-well burger with Swiss cheese, jalapenos, and ketchup. Biden also got a root beer. Y&H wonders if medium-well is a required precaution for all members of the executive branch. How else to explain such poor treatment of the working-class sandwich?)
Landrum did allow that Obama demanded no preferential treatment. The President preferred to wait in line with the rest of the Hell Burger faithful. “I wish all my customers were like that,” Landrum jokes.
The owner says he didn’t take Obama’s order, nor did he cook Obama’s burger. Landrum thought the honors should go to his staff, not some owner looking to take over their tasks just to interact with the most powerful man in the world. “I already get too much glory for what I do,” he says.
Landrum spoke briefly to Obama and Biden to see how they liked their burgers (only one guess as to their response) and to express his faith in the president’s economic initiatives. “Thanks to him,” Landrum says, “I’m confident in creating new jobs and restaurants.” The latter includes Landrum’s forthcoming Ray’s the Steaks at East River (formerly known as Ray’s the Heat) located in Ward 7, a part of the District starving for sit-down restaurants.
And with that, Landrum says, Obama and Biden finished their meals and left. They were at the burger joint no more than 30 minutes, just long enough to give Landrum the final punchline you’d expect from the iconoclastic meat man. “I don’t care if he is the president,” Landrum jokes. “It’s the rule. You eat and leave, baby.”