Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
December 23, 2014

Pols Eat Up James Beard ‘America’s Classics’ Honors

Just thinking about the landmark restaurants the James Beard Foundation will formally crown as “America’s Classics” this May has lawmakers who have dined at the treasured eateries licking their lips with anticipation.

The hospitality industry awards celebrate a handful of timeless establishments each year; the 2014 honorees include: Hansen’s Sno-Bliz in New Orleans, Nick’s Italian Café in McMinnville, Ore., Olneyville New York System in Providence, R.I., Perini Ranch Steakhouse in Buffalo Gap, Texas, and Sokolowski’s University Inn in Cleveland, Ohio.

Rhode Island Democratic Rep. Jim Langevin has fond memories of fueling up at Olneyville during his college days.

“I remember going there sometimes after class or after a night out downtown,” Langevin recounted, noting that he prefers the signature hot dogs dressed with meat sauce and celery salt (“Not to be confused with ‘all the way,’ which includes onions and mustard.”)

“It’s been a while, but I’m looking forward to going back,” Langevin said.

News of the national recognition made Rep. David Cicilline nostalgic for a taste of home.

“Olneyville New York System has served the best wieners for decades and when I walk in today, the same smells and sights remind me of my visits there years ago,” the Rhode Island Democrat shared.

In addition to enjoying the food and the familial atmosphere, Cicilline hailed the restaurant for participating in his “Main Street” initiative to bolster local businesses. “I congratulate Olneyville New York System on receiving this much deserved award,” he said.

Rep. Randy Neugebauer hailed the gourmet community for finally getting wise to what he already knows: Perini’s is good eating.

“Tom and Lisa Perini are dear friends of ours and this award is well-deserved,” he said of the husband and wife team the Texas Republican first met during a 2004 fundraising event. The pair cooked up some hearty eats, Vice President Dick Cheney provided some star power and the rest, as they say, is history.

“Since then Perini’s has been regular stop for my wife Dana and I,” Neugebauer asserted, stressing that Team Perini has “cooked for presidents, generals and just about everyone in Texas.” When he does get a chance to darken their door (by his estimation, he last visited less than a month ago), Neugebauer says the rib eye remains foremost in his mind. Still, sometimes other specialties creep in.

“Just yesterday, we had an event where we featured their tenderloin, another one of our favorites. And of course you can’t go wrong with their world-famous hamburger,” he counseled.

An aide to Ohio Democratic Rep. Marcia L. Fudge couldn’t recall the last time the congresswoman had broken bread at Sokolowski’s. But the entire office was thrilled that others are taking notice of Cleveland’s hospitality scene.

“Sokolowski’s is a Cleveland institution, no doubt about it, and the congresswoman is delighted that University Inn has been recognized with this well-deserved honor,” an aide told HOH.

While discussing regional delicacies might prove much too painful for some home-sick Washingtonians, the pols in this informal survey appeared to have no shortage of dining go-tos both here and at home.

“When we are in Lubbock (and I’m not grilling steaks outside) we always enjoy a steak at Cagle’s Steakhouse. In D.C. we alternate between several places, but Ruth’s Chris always makes a good steak,” Neugebauer said, offering a peek into his carnivorous Rolodex.

Back in Providence, Langevin remains perfectly content to feast on the grill fare dished out by the historic Haven Brothers food truck. Around D.C., he tends to keep an eye out for the Red Hook Lobster Pound and their “Connecticut-style” lobster roll.

“I don’t get it often, but it’s fattening and delicious,” he said of the butter-drenched, guilty pleasure.

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