People paid attention in early March when President Obama stopped for lunch at Cafe Beauregard in New Britain in advance of his speech at Central Connecticut State University. Food nerds took special notice that the POTUS ordered a Spicy Korean BBQ steak sandwich. (International diplomacy, budget battles and squabbles over minimum wage are all important, of course, but we want to know what the man eats!)
A few fevered minds even suggested Obama's order signaled some sort of executive nudge, a high-profile culinary push that would send Korean cuisine into greater public consciousness. Well, I doubt it. (Obama, after all, has probably eaten his share of funky Kenyan and Indonesian fare, but that hasn't made gado-gado, say, a go-to buffet item.) Still, the presidential seal of approval did seem to do something for Main Street in New Britain, which is a worthy destination for grabbing a bite. Less than a week after Obama's visit, there was a healthy line at Cafe Beauregard, and the staff was getting used to a new computerized check-out system. (Two other food spots worth getting to are also within walking distance — the venerable Capitol Lunch and Mae Kong Thai.) A sign in front of Cafe Beauregard announces that "Obama Eats Here!"
Cafe Beauregard has its regulars who place orders at the counter and either grab the food to go or eat in the little wedge of a dining room facing the street. The restaurant has lots of signature sandwiches and wraps, from pulled pork to classic grinders and Chinese sesame wraps. They serve breakfast, too. It's eclectic, with enough deli standards and Asian twists to satisfy many tastes.
But I was there to sample that Spicy Korean BBQ. And it was good, with thin sliced grilled strip steak, sriracha mayo, a ginger-flecked Asian slaw all on a club roll. Those who enjoy Vietnamese banh mi sandwiches will appreciate this creation. With fresh cilantro, that's what came to mind. Korean-food purists might long for some kimchi in place of the slaw, and for a little more peppery punch. But the sandwich is nicely balanced, with a satisfying hint of crunch and subtle heat, to please both chow-hound adventurers and those with more conservative palates. At $9.95, one could reasonably expect a little more than just a sandwich, like a creative side or two — but the Korean BBQ is fairly filling on its own. And there are massive chocolate-chip cookies at the counter for those looking to round their meal out with a sweet finish.
It seems that President Obama knows where to eat when he's in town. Maybe next time he's in the area he'll give a boost to a worthy Middle Eastern spot, a little-known Colombian restaurant, a tiny place that serves righteous tacos, or one of the other many small below-the-radar local purveyors of first-rate food from around the globe.
Cafe Beauregard is at 2 Main St., New Britain. Information: 860-438-7846.