At a Des Moines diner, voters get to the meat of the matter
January 2nd, 2012
07:15 PM ET
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Lisa Desjardins is the host of American Sauce. Click to listen to the CNN Radio podcast and listen to more American Sauce on Political Ticker:

Des Moines (CNN) – Both campaign essential and political cliché, the diner is again rising to prominence in the last days before the Iowa caucuses. Candidates have been crawling (almost literally, due to space concerns) all over the roadside fixtures.

But it is in the absence of candidates that Iowa voters may give you the most sincere reviews of both food and politics.

"I got the ham," said Chris Aldinger. "Iowa ham." Aldinger ate the "Shebang," an egg and ham special, at Des Moines' Drake Diner, a 50s-style restaurant next to the university of the same name.

In the diners of Iowa, pork is essential. Bacon, ham, sausage, tenderloin, barbecue, ribs and sandwiches are just the basics.

With his ham and eggs, Aldinger offered up some honesty: he's too sluggish to go to the caucuses.

"I think there’s one candidate I like, and that's Ron Paul," Aldinger offered. "But I don’t know why I don’t have the...fortitude to get my skinny over there and do it."

A few booths over, Republican friends Barb and Virginia, who did not give their last names, discovered they both wanted vegetarian breakfasts and the same candidate: Mitt Romney.

"We need someone who has success in restoring businesses and bringing them back to a viable state," said Barb. She had the Veggie Bene, a version of Eggs Benedict, while Virginia had a vegetarian omelet.

In the back of Drake's sat a woman closely connected to the caucus campaign. Sarah Enos is the wife of Wes Enos, the former Iowa political director for Michele Bachmann. He left the campaign late last week.

At the diner his wife, Sarah, ordered the Eggs Benedict but said she's undecided on the political menu. "I’m kind of up in the air, I have been all season," Enos said. She is looking at Bachmann, Mitt Romney. "And maaayyyybe Ron Paul."

The issue for Enos? Figuring out who represents her values, who can beat President Obama and, if that is not the same person, which is more important - values or electability.

"That’s a tough one," she responded. "Do you sacrifice your ideals just for someone that's perceived at the moment to beat Obama or will someone catch on if someone shows the support?"

The Drake Diner's menu specialties: Homemade milkshakes, Waffle Dogs, Cap’n Crunch French Toast and the Whole Hog Omelet, which has three types of pork and Monterey Jack cheese.

Latest campaign diner stops: Michele Bachmann drew an overflow crowd to Paula’s Cafe in West Des Moines Monday. Sunday, Mitt Romney brought such a crowd of reporters, and some caucus-goers, to the Family Table restaurant in Atlantic, Iowa, business was virtually shut down. The restaurant manager told CNN that the pro-business candidate, ironically, cost them a good amount of money in lost sales.

Listen to American Sauce on Political Ticker and catch up on our campaign train coverage

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Filed under: Campaign Trail • Diners • News • Radio • Restaurants

soundoff (13 Responses)
  1. Spooky

    Not sure which is more disturbing. The hard rock "Joker" smile or the piercing eyes!

    January 4, 2012 at 7:45 am |
  2. COlady

    I really don't give a rat's behind what Iowan's think! News flash folks: Iowa. Doesn't. Matter.

    January 3, 2012 at 8:12 pm |
  3. Renee Marie Jones

    It is very sad how uninformed these people are. That's a big problem in our country, an ignorant and easily fooled electorate cannot make sound decisions.

    January 3, 2012 at 7:13 pm |
  4. ™©JbJiNg!eŚ®™

    Don't you just hate politics on a food blog?

    @Jdizz – totally agree with that face thing going on!

    January 3, 2012 at 5:45 pm |
  5. Jack N.

    Anyone here think the most important campaign issue here is beating Obama?

    January 3, 2012 at 5:02 pm |
    • jjj

      Not me.

      January 4, 2012 at 9:17 am |
  6. Carole Clarke

    I like the only candidate NOT campaigning in Iowa. Nothing personal against the state but Jon Huntsman decided to work New Hampshire, probably due to a shortage of funding for Iowa. At least it shows he knows how to live within his means and can make tough decisions. The rest of them are either flip-flopping, lying, accusing or too self-absorbed. Huntsman has the experience and common sense and no attraction to gutter politics. After Iowa is done they'll swing over to New Hampshire and we'll see more of him. Read everything out on all the candidates and like him best.

    January 3, 2012 at 1:04 pm |
    • CN Red

      I agree with you about Huntsman.

      January 3, 2012 at 1:10 pm |
      • Stu in Iowa

        Agreed. Huntsman is the only decent candidate of the lot. I don't care that he skipped Iowa, especially if he gets the nomination. At least there will be an adult running against Obama.

        January 3, 2012 at 3:14 pm |
  7. Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫

    My goodness. Someone loosen the guitar strings holding her face like that. It might start to tear like a perineum on OctoMom.

    January 2, 2012 at 7:27 pm |
    • Maty Maty

      Seriously. I DON'T want whatever she's having.

      January 3, 2012 at 10:23 pm |
      • jjj

        I know, right? Looks like a surgeon took an iron to that grill.

        January 4, 2012 at 9:16 am |
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