It’s finally over. Election season’s been a crazy ride, and as in election seasons past, where and what the presidential candidates chose to eat played a role in the hoopla. Several major candidates stopped by New York City in the last year, and some of the biggest food moments in the election ended up happening in our city limits. From Trump Grill to a Bronx deli, see where the candidates went and how they fared when they came to eat in New York.
Donald Trump at Trump Grill: Perhaps the most infamous food moment this election season happened right here at Trump’s own restaurant in New York. On Cinco de Mayo, Trump posted a now-notorious photo of him eating a taco bowl with the caption "The best taco bowls are made in Trump Tower Grill. I love Hispanics!" Backlash was swift. (Taco bowls are not traditionally Mexican, and not all Hispanics celebrate Cinco de Mayo.) An advisor tried to stop him, but failed. Unfortunately, it was far from the only thing that Trump thing said this election season that proved he is a racist.
For anyone thinking of sampling this piece of political history, a note: Eater critic Robert Sietsema and restaurant editor Nick Solares dared to review all the restaurants in Trump Tower in Midtown. They found that they were.... not good. But in typical Trump fashion, a single negative review did not stop the Trump campaign from eating at the grill at least 26 times over the course of the season — more than they ate at any other single restaurant.
Hillary Clinton at Junior’s Cheesecake and Mikey Likes It: The former Secretary of State’s known for loving food (and hot sauce), but here in New York, her big restaurant visit was more about what she didn’t eat instead of what she did. Clinton went to iconic Brooklyn diner Junior’s — famous for its cheesecake — and did not eat a single bite. Instead, cameras caught her gazing very longingly at slices of delicious-looking strawberry-topped cheesecake. Photos of the moment went viral.
It’s not that she does not like cheesecake, or that she did not want to eat that particular slice. According to a reporter on the scene, Clinton simply didn't want to chow down in front of media. "I learned early on not to eat in front of all of you," she said at the time. "So, I'm sitting here just pining. Pining for a bite!" In fact, it’s rare to find a photo of candidates actually putting mouth in their mouths. They’re afraid of looking bad.
Despite the fear — or perhaps because her cheesecake denial became a thing — Clinton gave into a bite while at East Village ice cream shop Mikey Likes It. She said she had planned to take her ice cream to go and changed her mind once it was in her hand. Owner Mikey Cole had created a special sundae for Clinton, a "Victory Mac Daddy" with chocolate ice cream, chocolate chips, chocolate marshmallows, two chocolate waffles, chocolate whipped cream, and a chocolate-covered cherry. A member of the press asked if she wasn’t eating due to calorie counting, which she promptly booed.
Of course, it wasn’t just about ice cream here. Cole’s a former prisoner who struggled to get back into the job market. He started his own business after getting turned down for other jobs, and Clinton used the opportunity to talk about her prison reform initiatives.
Ted Cruz at Sabrosura 2: During the primaries, Republication presidential hopeful Senator Ted Cruz had one of the worst restaurant visits in New York this season. He went to the Bronx Chinese-Latino restaurant for a meet-and-greet, and not only did it have low turnout from supporters, protestors also caused a ruckus at the event. Brothers of hip-hop duo Rebel Diaz happened to be getting lunch at the restaurant, and they said that the right-wing politician "had no business being in the Bronx."
Mike Pence at Chili’s: When Republican vice presidential candidate Mike Pence visited New York, he did not even go to a restaurant here. Instead, when the Indiana governor’s flight was delayed, he went to a Chili’s in New Jersey with his family. He was quickly criticized for visiting the chain when he was so close to the best dining city in the world.
John Kasich at Gino’s Pizzeria and Mike’s Deli: The Ohio governor got a lot of flack for his food visits in New York City. First, he went to Queens pizzeria Gino’s and made the fatal mistake of eating his pizza with a fork. (Had he learned nothing from history? Pizza is for hands!) He defended the choice, saying that the slice had been "scalding hot, OK?"
Later, the Republican presidential candidate went to Mike’s Deli, an Italian sandwich spot in the Bronx — where he ate so much that he got teased for the sheer volume of food. Besides two helpings of spaghetti, Kasich feasted on a Yankee Stadium Big Boy sandwich (mortadella, ham, salami, capicolo, mozzarella, lettuce, and peppers) and the JK (salami, pepperoni, provolone, pepperoncini, pickles and creamy Italian dressing), which was named after him. This ridiculous photo was taken at the time:
I think Kasich is enjoying the Bronx pic.twitter.com/WXOBhO84my— Jennifer Fermino (@jfermino) April 7, 2016
Bernie Sanders at Nathan’s: During the primary race, Democratic presidential candidate Sanders visited the iconic hot dog brand’s flagship Coney Island stand after a ralley. He chowed down on hot dogs with his wife and former R.E.M. singer Michael Stipe. The Vermont senator ate quickly and revealed that he likes his hot dog with mustard, sauerkraut, and sometimes ketchup and onions. Luckily for Sanders, he got through his meal without the pushback that other candidates experienced.