POLITICS OCTOBER 16, 2013
According to Wednesday’s Washington Examiner, the rift in the Republican Party is even apparent in where they eat, with establishment moderates and Tea Party conservatives dining at different spots. We visited these competing Capitol Hill haunts to ask employees how these beleaguered politicians behave as customers, and that’s when we learned why politicians like these places: Nobody will talk.
At Pete’s Diner, John Boehner’s usual breakfast joint, the regulars and staff weren’t excited to see yet another reporter. They’ve been seeing quite a few lately, and what’s nice about Pete’s, said longtime customer and furloughed defense contractor Ellis Lewis, is that it “separates the real world from the political side.” Pete's has been quieter than usual since the shutdown, but people have stayed civil, even cordial, according to patrons at the restaurant on Wednesday afternoon. When I asked about Boehner’s frequency, Lewis tensed up. “John enjoys a joke,” he said.
Restaurant owner Gum Tong was coy as well. “I don’t know their names,” she said of her famous-in-D.C. customers. “I just see the badge.” Congresspeople have been coming to Pete’s since it opened more than 50 years ago, and she didn’t see what all the fuss was now. “Why does everybody want to ask about John Boehner?” she said. A customer for at least the ten or so years she’s worked at Pete’s, he orders breakfast—sometimes eggs, no coffee—and he’s a good tipper. She hadn’t noticed a marked change in his demeanor over the past couple of weeks, except that he has “a lot in his hands.” He’s in and out pretty quickly, she said, “and we don’t talk to him much. Usually less than 15 minutes.”
Ted Cruz and his breakaway counterparts convened Monday night at Tortilla Coast, a Mexican Restaurant three blocks from Pete’s. They stayed mum about the meeting’s proceedings, and so did the restaurant’s employees, with six different employees directing my colleague Julia Fisher to a PR representative, who in turn told her she wasn’t permitted to speak to anyone at the restaurant. No word on Cruz’s table manners, then. There was, however, a sly sign outside commemorating his meeting: