Get Out the Vote...and the Napkins
It may not be election day yet, but at the Good Stuff Eatery just a couple of blocks from the Capitol in Washington, D.C., you can vote with your taste buds every lunch hour.
The concept in political dining is the brainchild of Good Stuff chef and owner Spike Mendelsohn, a star of the reality TV show "Top Chef."
Mendelsohn has created two variations of his signature hamburgers and named them after Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama, respectively. And the burgers are flying off the grill -- giving new meaning to the phrase "competitive eating."
"We're right on the Hill, we're just steps away from the Capitol," Mendelsohn told ABCNews.com. "I was like, 'We definitely have to come up with an Obama and McCain burger and run it like our own little campaign and people could cast their votes when they ordered it.'"
Since the burgers were put on the menu two weeks ago, over a thousand have been sold, with seven out of ten burgers going for Obama.
The McCain burger is topped with chipotle mayo, corn roasted red pepper salsa and pepper jack cheese. The Obama burger comes with bacon, blue cheese, red-onion chutney and horseradish mayo. Mendelsohn says he was inspired by the candidate's personalities to come up with the ingredients.
"We figured that McCain had more of that Tex-Mex feel; that maverick in him. His character is a little spicy," says Mendelsohn. "Obama was more like oozing with personality and flavor, and that's why we've incorporated the bacon and the blue-cheese -- that kind of just melts and oozes on top of the burger but yet there's that sweetness to him which is the red-onion chutney."
For the most part, people have been taking the idea light-heartedly, but some have gotten a little serious. Mendelsohn says one customer eats at the restaurant every day so she can vote for Obama, while another won't vote at all because, he complains, the bacon in the Obama burger gives Obama an unfair advantage. "So I told him I'm going to come out with a bailout burger for him," Mendelsohn joked.
Just like in a real election, some people were reluctant to admit whom they were voting for. But one patron admitted that although he worked for the Obama campaign, he cast his vote for the other side by buying a McCain burger. Booed by his pro-Obama friends during lunch, he did not want to comment on why he chose a McCain burger.
Another customer, Ryan Costello, says deciding which candidate to vote for was easy. "I like Sen. Obama and I really like blue cheese," he said. Munching through his juicy burger he added, "If the McCain burger had blue cheese on it, I don't think I could have gotten it anyway."
The George Washington University law student, who works for Rep. Alan Mollohan, D-W.Va., says he likes the promotion and has seen it in other places. "Some places have buy-a-drink at a bar for your candidate."
Aside from all the fun, Mendelsohn says there's also a civic side to their burgers. "It's one of the most important elections I think in our life," he said. "It keeps reminding people they really should make the right decision and kind of think it through and we're just encouraging everybody to get there and vote."
The Obama and McCain burgers will be on the menu until the elections are over, and the winning burger may even become a permanent item on the Good Stuff Eatery menu.
"I'd love to invite both of them to come try out their burgers," says Mendelsohn of the presidential candidates.
"Maybe we could have the inauguration at Good Stuff Eatery."