Politics & Government

Restaurants rev up for inaugural boost

Obamanomics continues.

The inauguration of Barack Obama as the nation's 44th president has spurred a slew of promotions far beyond commemorative plates and coins as businesses try one more time to cash in on the president-elect's popularity.

Throughout the Triangle, restaurants are hoping that the president-elect's popularity will help boost what is traditionally a slow time of year.

"I've never paid so much attention to an inauguration day until this year," said G. Patel, proprietor of the Oxford Gastropub in downtown Raleigh, which will host an "Alternative Inaugural Ball" Tuesday night.

"A lot of people are going goo-goo ga-ga over the inauguration."

Business owners like Patel are hoping folks turn out to celebrate. Patel is expecting at least 300 people Tuesday night, roughly double the crowd of a normal Tuesday.

"I have 90 people on the books already," he said. "With the economy being so slow, we have to do special things like this."

There's no shortage of offerings, from chain restaurants to independent business owners.

Here are just a few examples:

* TGI Friday's is hosting what it calls the World's Largest Inauguration Party, with half-price appetizers and a special toast.

* Krispy Kreme is giving customers a free doughnut Tuesday.

* Dunkin' Donuts is launching a new red, white and blue "Stars & Stripes" doughnut, which it will sell for 89 cents today through Tuesday, or in select markets, the doughnut will cost a very presidential 44 cents if you buy a medium coffee or hot chocolate.

* Pinehurst entrepreneur Susan Rice will give away 1 oz. bags of her truffle popcorn, which retails for $3.99 to $5.99 normally. (Available at www.susanricetruffleproducts.com starting Tuesday.)

* The Carrboro Beverage Company is offering a selection of patriotic beers including El Presidente, one called Ale to the Chief, and an American Amber all at a roughly 10 percent discount.

* And A Southern Season in Chapel Hill has special meals starting today that mirror the inauguration meals of some past presidents.

For instance, Abraham Lincoln had corned beef and cabbage. FDR requested chicken salad. (If you want to eat like Obama, you'll have to do that Saturday when the restaurant serves his favorite Mexican fare.)

The menu offering is a first for Southern Season, said executive chef Chris Holloway.

"We were just talking about the inaugural and really it was like, 'Look, every president's had a menu,' " he said.

Plus, the addition responds to increased demand from customers for more things patriotic.

"They've been in here asking the last few weeks, 'Do you have American flags?' "

Area bargain-hunters and politicos are excited about the deals.

"You could literally plan your day around getting free stuff," said Caroline Smith, a self-described savvy shopper who is 27 and lives in Durham.

Still, even the promise of a freebie might not be enough to get people to tear themselves from their TV on Tuesday.

"You really have to kind of weigh the benefits versus the cost, especially given the economy," Smith said. "With the Krispy Kreme, I would love to do that, but I don't want to drive 30 minutes there and 30 minutes back for one free doughnut."