17 Presidents' Favorite Foods for Presidents' Day

February 16, 2015

Since we published this post last year, Barack Obama got a little too friendly with the food at a Chipotle and Bill Clinton went from the most famous vegan to possibly cheating on his diet at times. Favorite foods are forever, so this Presidents' Day we revisit this post in honor of our presidents and their beloved meals.

For most of us, Presidents' Day means little more than a long weekend. This year, that's going to change. For all their starched suits, staged handshakes, and scandals, presidents are people, too -- with pet grizzly bears and proclivities for skinny-dipping. Which is to say, after all their grandiose galas and diplomatic dinners, they like to tuck into their favorite snacks as much as the rest of us.

In that spirit, we've rounded up some of their most beloved foods, courtesy of The Food Timeline -- because what better time is there to take on a new cooking project while also brushing up on your trivia? Once you've finished binge-watching "House of Cards" and shoveling out your driveway, that is. Read on to find out what FDR fed British royalty (the nerve! the awesomeness!), what comfort food made Nixon weak in the knees, and how George Bush likes his brunch (it is exactly what you would expect).

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 George H.W. BushPerfect Popcorn 
"Some longtime Bush friends... insist that his true love is popcorn."


Jimmy CarterGoat Cheese Grits with Red Eye Gravy, Country Ham, and a Fried Egg
"Even before they had settled into the White House, reports in the press began to highlight the Carters' Southern style of life. The public was forewarned that the White House would soon serve grits to guests."


 Thomas JeffersonAretha Frankenstein's Waffles of Insane Greatness 
"In Holland he sampled waffles for the first time and was so pleased he immediately bought a waffle iron."


Bill ClintonSuzanne Goin's Grilled Pork Burgers 
"Clinton prefers the stuff with fat in it: jalapeño cheeseburgers, chicken enchiladas, barbecue, cinnamon rolls and pies."


George WashingtonJamie Oliver's Roasted Shoulder of Lamb with Smashed Vegetables and Greens 
"A glass of wine and a bit of mutton are always welcome." - George Washington



Zachary TaylorPuffy Pillow Beignets 
"His familiarity with Louisiana gave him firsthand knowledge of Creole cooking, and he became enamored of its variety and richness."


George W. BushHuevos Rancheros (Country-Style Eggs Topped with Pork and Green Chile) 
"On most Sundays, if the Bushes weren't at Camp David...the President wanted the same thing for lunch: A post-church meal of huevos rancheros."


Woodrow WilsonGrandma's White Cake with Maple Syrup Frosting 
"I am very fond of country hams, peach cobblers, butter and buttermilk, fresh eggs, hot biscuits, homemade ice cream and plain white cake." -Woodrow Wilson


Barack ObamaJust Good Chili
"I’ve been using this chili recipe since college and would bring it to any potluck. I can’t reveal all the secrets, but if you make it right, it’s just got the right amount of bite, the right amount of oomph in it and it will clear your sinuses." -Barack Obama


 Franklin Delano RooseveltYum Dogs 
"Fact: The King and Queen of England were served hot dogs at FDR's Summer White House on June 11, 1939."


Ulysses S. GrantNineteenth Century: Roman Punch 
"Many of the state dinners consisted of twenty-nine courses with a break after the entrée for Roman punch to fortify the guests."


Abraham LincolnAlsatian Gingerbread 
"Once in a while my mother used to get some sorghum and ginger and make some gingerbread. It wasn't often, and it was our biggest treat." - Abraham Lincoln


John F. KennedyBay Scallop Chowder 
"Soup was a dish close to the heart of President Kennedy, since it gave him an opportunity to be served the fish for which his New England background had given him a special appreciation."


Richard NixonFatted Calf's Meatloaf 
"President Nixon was quite fond of his wife's meat loaf, and meat loaf appeared about once a month on the family dinner menus."


Ronald ReaganChai Spiced Monkey Bread 
"Monkey Bread is a heavy, sweet loaf that serves as a Reagan family tradition."


Dwight D. EisenhowerSecret Ingredient Beef Stew 
"Beef soup was one of his specialties, and he would leave the soup simmering on the stove in the kitchen for hours, causing much mouth-watering among the kitchen staff."


Theodore RooseveltChicken Fried Steak with Sage Gravy
"The only way to serve fried chicken is with white gravy soaked into the meat." -Theodore Roosevelt

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Fond of large dogs, tiny houses, pungent cheese, and dessert for dinner (or breakfast).


leasiagraham February 18, 2019
this food looks so good and i love them 😍😍🎂🎂
Michael Q. March 30, 2015
Chicken fried steak isn't fried chicken. It's steak breaded and fried like a chicken cutlet.
beejay45 February 23, 2016
Or fried chicken isn't chicken fried steak. Surely there are enough fried chicken recipes on the site that they could have used one of those to fit the quote.
Beef soup is not beef stew, as I'm sure Ike could have told you.
Huevos Rancheros aren't topped with a hunk of pork and green chili.
And I want Obama's own chili recipe. ;)

You're really reaching, people, pretty much forcing round things into square holes on most of these lists you do. Put a little more effort into it and don't rely on second-, third- or fourth-hand Internet knowledge. Love Food52, but these kinds of mistakes make it hard to the respect.
Antonio S. March 15, 2015
I'm sorry, but Huevos Rancheros with flour tortillas? That's an unmitigated disaster even for Tex-Mex standards. Deep-fried corn tortillas have always been a staple of the dish.
Leslie S. February 16, 2015
Love this!!
susan G. February 20, 2014
The Lincoln quote is very touching -- the poverty when he grew up was something most of us cannot imagine. Certainly, no silver knives. (Isn't foodtimeline amazing! A great place to get lost.)
Shawn O. February 17, 2014
If Clinton's a vegan now, go, Bill, but I suspect I like his fatty recipes better!
basketpam March 16, 2015
Bill Clinton is not so much a vegan by choice by has multiple food allergies as detailed by the now retired pastry chef, Roland Mesnier who is a WONDERFUL chef and character. The former President is allergic to gluten, dairy, and chocolate. I thought life was bad enough just being allergic to gluten. Chef Roland said the pastry kitchen has an excellent carrot cake they would make for him for dessert for state dinners. However, at times the President would INSIST on the chocolate cake made for everyone else. The next day he would be seen with puffy eyes and other consequences of breaking his diet. His strict and narrow diet he follows is NOT by choice but for medical necessity.
cookinginvictoria February 17, 2014
This is very entertaining! Love how you've paired food52 recipes with both famous and little-known quotes by/about presidents. Thank you for featuring my Huevos Rancheros recipe with the George W. Bush quote. All of these recipes look really scrumptious! :)
Claire H. February 17, 2014
Would it have been too difficult to showcase a vegan dish for Bill Clinton, out of respect for a diet he has enjoyed and celebrated (although more for health reasons) for years?
Rémy R. February 17, 2014
Hi Claire, I actually had no idea about that! I used Food Timeline (apart from the Obama quote, which I had to find elsewhere) for my research, and there wasn't anything about Clinton's veganism. Thanks for letting us know!
LP February 17, 2014
Yeah, I was also going to make the vegan comment for Clinton. I don't think he eats many foods rich in animal fats since changing his lifestyle after heart surgery.
Joy B. February 17, 2014
Roosevelt's my type of dude.
Rémy R. February 17, 2014
Which one, Teddy or FDR? Either way I agree :)
drbabs February 17, 2014
Isn't President Clinton a vegan now?
Scribbles February 17, 2014
Very fun!
healthierkitchen February 17, 2014
Very clever!!
Sarah J. February 17, 2014
This is AMAZING.
Catherine L. February 17, 2014
This roundup makes me feel smarter and hungrier at the same time.