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Campaign season is getting into full swing and with the endless coverage about who said what, who thinks what, and why the other guy is bad for America, sometimes it's nice to remember the human side of campaigning — the part where candidates relax, roll up their shirt sleeves, and pose for campaign trail photos at restaurants.
Of course, sometimes they are actually going to eat at these places and they campaign by mistake, but certainly, the restaurant owners don't seem to mind. According to Tommy Stevenson, owner of Tommy's Country Ham House in South Carolina, "It really helps my business... the campainging gets outsiders to come in that normally wouldn't, and that brings in more business to my restaurant later on… We see new faces in here every day, after and during the primaries."
So where are the candidates eating this year? It's a mix of the iconic places, like Ben's Chili Bowl in Washington, D.C. and the restaurants that are known as true community hotspots, like Versaille's Restaurant in Miami. There's some fine dining establishments and some joints serving up down-home Southern fare.
Tilt'n Diner, Tilton, N.H.
The Tilt'n Diner is a hot spot for candidates campaigning in the Northeast. In fact, on their web site they state: "Tilt'n Diner opened in 1992, and has been called a 'must stop' on the New Hampshire Presidential Primary campaign trail by The Associated Press." Rick Santorum made an extremely publicized stop there in January.
Mary Ann's Diner, Derry, N.H.
Mitt Romney and several other GOP candidates have stopped into this 1950s-style diner in New Hampshire during this campaign cycle. The owner is an independent and says that he is open to hosting candidates from both parties. They'll be chowing down on the state's Best Breakfast, as awarded by The New Hampshire Magazine in 2003.
Ben's Chili Bowl, Washington, D.C.
Barack Obama gave the already iconic Ben's Chili Bowl in D.C. a publicity boost when he showed up there for a chili dog in 2008. It continues to draw political figures such as former French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
Wells Blue Bunny Ice Cream, Le Mars, IA
Josh Haner, a staff photographer for The New York Times who covered the GOP races in Iowa, shared in this article with NY Times blogger James Estrin that Wells Blue Bunny Ice Cream in Le Mars, Iowa, is a must-visit for candidates racing through the state.
The Machine Shed, Rockford, Ill.
Famous for its chocolate-covered bacon and Krispy Kreme cheeseburger, The Machine Shed in Rockford, Ill., has been visited by Mitt Romney and Rick Perry this year.
Lizard's Thicket, Columbia, S.C.
Perry and Santorum both enjoyed some down-home Southern cooking at this South Carolina joint. The restaurant has hosted rallies for half the GOP candidates this year and was Hillary Clinton's restaurant of choice during her 2008 campaign for president in Columbia.
Comma Coffee, Carson City, Nev.
Comma Coffee is a relatively new kid on the block to political campaign stops, but since they opened their doors in 2000, they have hosted Hillary Clinton, President Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Dennis Kucinich, Ron Paul, and even former President Jimmy Carter.
Click here to see more of where the candidates are eating on the 2012 campaign trail.
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