Where the White House gets Mexican food in Phoenix – The Arizona Republic

Vice President Mike Pence didn’t stay in Phoenix long enough Tuesday for a return visit to Ajo Al’s, but he was still jonesing for the restaurant’s chicken enchiladas.
So he ordered the food to go. On Air Force Two.
It was a twist on a long tradition of the nation’s presidents and vice presidents who have engaged in an understandable rite of passage: stopping at a Mexican restaurant on a visit to Arizona.
Pence stopped by Ajo Al’s when he was in Phoenix last October and apparently liked the food enough to ask for more. The restaurant, near 16th Street and Camelback Road, delivered a selection of enchiladas, rice, beans and chips to the vice-president’s plane at Sky Harbor International Airport.
Mexican food can get politicians in trouble. In 1976, President Gerald Ford famously tried to eat a tamale in Texas without removing the outer corn husk.
The tradition covers 30 years of consecutive Presidential administrations adding some spice to their Arizona visits and appears to go back at least to the administration of Ronald Reagan.
Vice President George H.W. Bush kneaded dough at the Estrella Tortilla Factory during a June visit and ate a breakfast of menudo and chorizo.
“It’s terrific,” Bush said, giving a thumbs-up to reporters who were kept some distance from both the president and the food. “Eat your hearts out.”
Estrella, incidentally, has since closed.
In 1990, Bush’s second-in-command, Vice President Dan Quayle, had Garcia’s Del Este of Scottsdale, kin to the original Garcia’s chain, cater a dinner aboard Air Force Two. No word on the menu.
Garcia’s Del Este closed in 1992
President Bill Clinton, after touring the La Canasta tortilla chip factory, made a stop at Poncho’s, located along Central Road in South Phoenix. It was karaoke night.
Clinton dined on the Fiesta Chiquita appetizer platter that included two mini-tacos, two mini-chimichangas, two mini-tamales and a side of beans.
President George W. Bush dined at Tee Pee Mexican Food on Indian School Road along with Arizona Diamondbacks executives Jerry Colangelo and Joe Garagiola Jr., team manager Bob Brenly and Arte Moreno, the Arizona resident who owned the Anaheim Angels.
Bush had the Number 2 combination of enchiladas, rice and beans. The restaurant was suggested by a Bush staffer, Sarah Tillman, who grew up in Phoenix and whose family had frequented the restaurant for generations.
Republic columnist at the time, O. Ricardo Pimentel, questioned the choice, wondering why Bush was not taken to a more authentic place “where they would not deign to use hamburger meat for taco filling.”
President Obama visited Phoenix in August 2009, stopping at Macayo’s for the fajita platter, one that included beef, chicken and shrimp. His wife, Michelle, ordered fish tacos and a beef tamale.
The restaurant on Central Avenue, a Phoenix institution for years, was a wise choice politically, said the Republic’s dining critic at the time, Howard Seftel.
“It’s a locally owned, middle-of-the-road Mexican-food restaurant that serves food that everybody is familiar with,” Seftel said. “It shows that he is not an elitist, but rather eats food that most people can identify with.”
That location has since closed. Macayo’s has since moved to another location a bit south on Central Avenue. 
It is not clear whether Pence ate anything while at the Phoenix mainstay near 16th Street and Camelback Road.
Each table was set up with glasses of Arnold Palmers, should Pence have been parched while chatting with attendees. Pence was spotted sipping a bit of beverage but resisted the temptation to crunch into the chips laid out in bowls on each table.
President Donald Trump has visited Arizona, but he has not publicly stopped at any Mexican food restaurants. If Pence was scouting for him, Ajo Al’s does have a taco salad ($9.50).
Pence spent only a few hours in Phoenix, touting the administration’s tax cut package and other policies, but he didn’t want to leave without the enchiladas.
The vice president’s office called Ajo Al’s a few days before the visit to arrange a catered meal on Air Force Two, said Daniel Dains, one of the restaurant’s owners. 
“He liked it here so much the first time he visited, he wanted more,” Dains said.
Dains helped deliver the food to the airport, where it was loaded onto the waiting plane.


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