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Former City Paper reporter Dave Jamieson and I pulled up a chair last week at Levi’s Port Cafe and practically ordered the left side of the menu, everything from a slab of ribs to Carolina-style barbecue pork to fried catfish to mac and cheese. It was our first visit, and we wanted to sample widely. The meal was part of my ongoing quest to find decent Carolina ‘cue in the area. More on that later.

But as I was paying the bill at the counter, another apparent first-timer walked in and introduced himself to the cashier. “Hi, I’m Marion Barry,” he told her and held out his hand. He said he had heard about the soul food and barbecue outlet. By the time I paid up and started to walk out, Barry had settled in at a table by the window, and plates were starting to pile up around him.

Barry’s glad-handing struck me less as politicking than as a ploy for a free meal. But not so, says Johnny Kersey, owner and chef at Levi’s. “Everybody pays that comes in,” he says, otherwise he’d go out of business fast. “If the president comes in, he has to pay.”

But Kersey did say that he’s known Barry for awhile, though he couldn’t remember if the councilmember had ever visited his place before last week’s meal.