A seat at the President’s table three years later

A seat at the President’s table three years later


The Obama Special, grilled cheese sandwich and soup. Courtesy of Magnolia’s. [Photo: Brian Palermo who cooked for President Obama that day] 8/20/16

In keeping with our Presidential visits to Rochester series, on August 22nd, 2013, Barack Obama had lunch at Magnolia’s on Park Avenue.



In When President John Quincy Adams visited Rochester on July 27th and 28th, 1843 and toured Mt. Hope Cemetery, the grave of Nathaniel Rochester.


In On Abraham Lincoln in Rochester from Michael Nighan, a plaque and a train station.


In Memorial Day, 1892, when President Benjamin Harrison dedicated the Soldier’s and Sailor’s Monument in Washington Square Park with Frederick Douglass. And Occupy Rochester, Benjamin Harrison, Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass in the same park that Occupy would occupy.

In 45 years ago when President Nixon visited Rochester. And 3 days later when East High School erupted in racial violence a media briefing at the Landmark Hotel in Pittsford.

In 27 years ago today when President George H. W. Bush visited Wilson Magnet High School, a signed chalkboard.

with BrIAN cropped

with Brian Palermo who cooked for President Obama that day (left) 8/20/16 [Photo: Michelle]

Below is At a seat from the President’s table two years later from the 2nd anniversary.

Perhaps because this is the last year Obama will be a sitting President (pardon the pun), the displayed photos and chair on which Obama sat received much attention.


from Nate Silver’s blog 538

Waitress Michelle says people frequently come to take pics and order the Obama Special. Michelle often sees locals bring out of town visitors. People sometimes act quite dramatically. One woman was even shaking in giddy excitement.

As for Obama, he awaits his successor. Most likely, Hillary Clinton — as of today The Upshot gives Clinton an 86% chance of winning.

In recent history, both parties have usually been denied a third term: McCain (2008), Gore (2000), Ford (1976), Humphrey (1968) and Nixon (1960).  George H.W. Bush won a Republican third term in 1988, but lost in his bid for a 4th in 1992.  Harry Truman won a 5th Democratic term in 1948, but Adlai Stevenson failed for a 6th in 1952.

At a seat from the President’s table two years later • August 21, 2015


With Hostess Devin Congdon. Every day people ask Devin if Obama really ate here.

On August 22, 2013, President Obama enjoyed a stopover lunch at Magnolia’s on Park Avenue while on a bus trip from Buffalo to Syracuse. Does his brief stay really count as a “Presidential Visit?”

No inaugural train (Lincoln, 1861), Monument Dedication (Harrison, 1892), political rally (Johnson, 1964, Carter, 1980, Reagan, 1984) or leftover signed chalkboard (George H.W. Bush, 1989)

obama 1

Provided by Susan Palermo

And does two years really count as an Anniversary? Five, yes. By then we’ll have a new President. (Can Magnolia’s lure The Donald for a power lunch? Will Bernie pick up the tab as did Obama?) In ten, still in his prime what will Obama be doing? My prediction. Sitting in a different chair on the Supreme Court. At twenty five, hopefully still alive rounding out his legacy when another D & C blogger sits here. At fifty, ranked and pondered by Presidential historians — that is if Magnolia’s and the US Presidency still exist.

Actually, after speaking with Magnolia’s owner Susan Palermo and staff members who were there two summers ago, I realized anew what a cool footnote in Rochester’s history was Obama’s cameo.

President Barack Obama shakes hands with Paul MacAulzy, 66, Rochester,

President Barack Obama shakes hands with Paul MacAulzy, 66, Rochester (D & C)

As Susan explained, both locals and out-of-towners still consistently drop by to see the chair and photo montage, often snapping their own pictures and asking her questions. Many remember the “where were you” day vividly.  Others, especially visitors to the Park Avenue Festival, never knew about the lunch or only dimly recall. The montage attracts the curious of all sorts: Obama supporters (and detractors), the political junkie, or just those fascinated by lived history in their midst.


With Presidential grilled cheese and soup, now the Obama Special

To staff members who shook President Obama’s hand, August 22nd will always be a special day. Hostess Devin Congdon (pictured) says every day people ask if Obama really ate there and what did he eat. The same grilled cheese and soup as I, now the Obama Special.

Finally, as I sit in the Presidential Chair, I am announcing the commencement of my own campaign.  This year – when the people speak – I plan to topple Rachel Barnhart from her perch as the top blogger in Rochester! Sorry, Rach. Hey, if Donald Trump can be leading in the polls, so can I.


November 3rd, 1964: When Rochester’s Senator Keating lost to RFK in the wake of LBJ’s landslide.


Reverend Mothers, Empaths of Enlightenment, American buskers and more at the Park Avenue Festival

A year after Reverend Mothers, Empaths of Enlightenment and American buskers at the Park Avenue Festival

About The Author


Welcome to Talker of the Town! My name is David Kramer. I have a Ph.D in English and teach at Keuka College. I am a former and still active Fellow at the Nazareth College Center for Public History and a Storyteller in Residence at the SmallMatters Institute. Over the years, I have taught at Monroe Community College, the Rochester Institute of Technology and St. John Fisher College. I have published numerous Guest Essays, Letters, Book Reviews and Opinion pieces in The New York Times, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, the Buffalo News, the Rochester Patriot, the Providence Journal, the Providence Business News, the Brown Alumni Magazine, the New London Day, the Boston Herald, the Messenger Post Newspapers, the Wedge, the Empty Closet, the CITY, Lake Affect Magazine and Brighton Connections. My poetry appears in The Criterion: An International Journal in English and Rundenalia and my academic writing in War, Literature and the Arts and Twentieth Century Literary Criticism. Starting in February 2013, I wrote for three Democratic and Chronicle  blogs, "Make City Schools Better," "Unite Rochester," and the "Editorial Board." When my tenure at the D & C  ended, I wanted to continue conversations first begun there. And start new ones.  So we created this new space, Talker of the Town, where all are invited to join. I don’t like to say these posts are “mine.” Very few of them are the sole product of my sometimes overheated imagination. Instead, I call them partnerships and collaborations. Or as they say in education, “peer group work.” Talker of the Town might better be Talkers of the Town. The blog won’t thrive without your leads, text, pictures, ideas, facebook shares, tweets, comments and criticisms.


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