Obama-Mania: Tourism Business Booming in Obama's Chicago

One server recommended that your reporter head over to another neighborhood attraction: the Nation of Islam's Louis Farrakhan's house.

"It's only two blocks away," suggested the waiter. "You're already there."

Walking down the Hyde Park streets, the city has hung signs on lampposts that read, "Congratulations, Chicago's own Barack Obama: President-elect of the United States of America," with an accompanying artist's rendering of Obama emblazoned with the mantra, "Yes We Can!"

The lamppost signs quickly caught the eye of Patrice Crowley, a tourist from Pennsylvania.

"I was just shocked at how quickly their pride has expressed for monetary reasons and just for civic pride," she said. "I thought that was really wonderful."

Crowley also noticed a drugstore chain selling Obama apparel, too.

"I was just so impressed that even Walgreens would sell things like Obama sweatshirts," she remarked.

Crowley and her friends spent the afternoon walking around the leafy University of Chicago neighborhood, where Obama once taught at the law school.

Just blocks away, toward Lake Michigan, is the Obamas' modest old apartment in East View Park, where they lived for 12 years before moving to their present Kenwood residence.

Beneath the midday winter sun, a homeless man slept in the grassy apartment's courtyard, not something anyone will see anytime soon outside the Obamas' current home on Greenwood Ave.

Heading north along Lakeshore Drive, tourists can make their way past the sprawling Grant Park, where Obama addressed 250,000 elated supporters at his election night rally.

South of the Loop, Chicago's central district, sits Manny's Deli, a Chicago institution where the president-elect stopped recently, much to the excitement of Dan Raskin.

"It was just a chill going through everyone when he walked in," Raskin recalled.

Since then, Raskin said, "Our tourist traffic has definitely picked up." The eatery was even added as a stop on Obama-related bus tours.

"A lot of people ask what he ate," noted Raskin. "He had corned beef and cherry pie."

But the president-elect's three sandwiches and two pies came at a price of almost $50, so be prepared.

"He's a great guy," said Raskin, sitting near an autographed photo of Obama and Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, signed during Obama's visit last week.

One patron asked this reporter if Obama was coming back into the deli, but sadly, it was just a writer hungry to try the famous corned beef. However, key Obama aides, such as incoming White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and senior adviser David Axelrod, are regular customers.

Further north toward downtown, visitors can stop at the site of Obama's current transition headquarters, a nondescript high-rise called the Kluczynski Federal Building, now heavily guarded by armed officers.

The Obamas' favorite eateries are not limited to their Hyde Park neighborhood. The president-elect is a known aficionado of the Mexican hot spot Topolobampo, which sits alongside Bayless' Frontera Grill, a more affordable Mexican attraction. (This reporter can recommend the chicken breast in mole sauce and apple cinnamon mojitos.)

Bayless was once rumored to be a candidate to accompany Obama to the White House.

But even when the president-elect resides in the Oval Office, rest assured the lawmaker's hometown will still be full of tourists trying to trace his steps, high-caloric as they might be.

Just make sure you work out as much as he does.

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