treasure brings in the gold
attracks presidential candidates to small town Iowa
Iowa Presidential Politics.com
Iowa Presidential Politics.com
Eats: Gen. Wesley Clark talks to supporters
at Iowa City's Hamburg Inn No. 2.
University of Iowa seniors Tashia Welling and Matt Nelson sit
waiting for a chocolate shake in the dark wooden seats of Booth
2 at Hamburg Inn No. 2 on a Monday afternoon in Iowa City.
pair eats at the restaurant, 214 N. Linn St., once every three weeks,
they are unaware they are sitting in Rep. Dennis Kucinich's (D-Ohio)
As the presidential
race heats up, several candidates have made cameos at Iowa City's
political hot spot, with others planning on it in the future. In
fact, the diner, known for its burgers and omelets, sent out special
invitations to the ten candidates -- three of which have already
accepted, said Hamburg Inn owner Dave Panther.
Vermont Gov. Howard Dean and Retired Gen. Wesley Clark have all
made appearances within the last month, as displayed on the photo
adorned north wall of the restaurant. Invitations were sent out
to help celebrate the business' 50th anniversary and to "tune
people into the caucuses," Panther said.
Inn is a 'must meet the people' place in Iowa," he said. Hamburg
Inn #2, opened in 1948, is the only one remaining Hamburgs of three
originals. "We're kind of working to promote [the caucuses]
a little more. Exposure is
good for us."
Elizabeth Edwards, the wife of presidential
candidate Sen. John Edwards, showed up at Hamburg Inn on Tuesday
to meet with University
of Iowa student groups, Panther said.
attention for the restaurant began years ago when former President
Ronald Reagan made a stop after giving a speech in 1984, Panther
said. Former President Bill Clinton came in for a vanilla shake
last spring -- designating the seat along the north wall as the
Clinton came we couldn't even get to the register," said Hamburg
Inn Manager Steve Fugate, who has worked at the tiny restaurant
for 23 years. "I think that's kind of the lure. When you get
a lot of people in a small space,
it builds the excitement.
they'd just have more time to eat."
attributes the visits to the unique Hamburg Inn atmosphere and
the variety of people.
more the flavor of the place; its more down home," he said.
"You wouldn't want to go to a chain. It's not fakey."
Kucinich, a vegan, has come to chat with customers -- not
eat -- several times this fall, claiming Booth 2 as his special
seat, said Fugate.
Kucinich blows me away," Fugate said, adding he's partial to
the candidate. "He's the only one who votes the way his mouth
Kucinich's Iowa Press Secretary, said Kucinich made appearances
at the restaurant because he's a big supporter of local business
and his best supporters in Iowa City are Hamburg regulars.
mostly it's a local Iowa City mainstay and he likes to support the
little guy," Friedrich said, adding that Kucinich will go there
again. Kucinich is not alone, as most of the political visitors
haven't indulged in Hamburg Inn's infamous hamburgers.
there's tons of eyes on you, you're not going to be stuffing your
face," he said, adding that instead staffs are able to enjoy
the restaurant's treats -- Clinton's staff bought hundreds of dollars
worth of Hamburg Inn T-shirts.
he expects to see more political candidates in the near future.
"If people can build a buzz or hum here in Iowa, it's a multiplier.
It should heat up as time goes on."
Eckhardt at [email protected]