When Taqueria Las Gemelas co-owner Josh Phillips clocked all the Secret Service agents inspecting the area around the Northeast D.C. food hall it calls home, he figured the information he received about a morning visit from Small Business Administration officials that day wasn’t quite accurate. Then he got word that President Joe Biden was stopping by instead.
“He came to the taqueria to pick up lunch,” Phillips says. “He also came to let us know that we were the first restaurant to be approved for the Restaurant Revitalization Fund in the country.”
The $28.6 billion fund, authorized in a March 2021 stimulus bill, just start accepting applications for grants Monday, May 3. During the first 21 days, it will only process and fund requests from small businesses run by women, veterans, or people from economically and socially disadvantaged groups. Phillips, a general manager and partner in the Destination Unknown Restaurants group that also runs Espita Mezcaleria and Ghostburger, says Las Gemelas qualified because 60.6 percent of the ownership falls into those categories. Phillips says that includes partners Yesenia Neri Díaz, the head of the group’s masa processing team; Rogelio Martinez, a longtime butcher and cook at the company; hospitality director Kelly White Phillips; and investors who served in the U.S. military.
The grants are designed to make up for a restaurant’s losses during the pandemic. Phillips says Taqueria Las Gemelas, which officially opened March 15 of this year and has drawn long lines for to-go orders, will receive $667,000.
Phillips says Biden ordered four tacos — al pastor, lengua, carnitas, and barbacoa. He also got two quesadillas: hongos (mushrooms) with salsa taquera, and chorizo with habanero salsa. Apparently the president’s staff has been known to dig into his orders before, Phillips says: “He made it very clear to his team that they were his tacos and they were not allowed to touch them.”
Chef Rob Aikens shared a video to Instagram of Biden clearly telling his staff, “These are my tacos,” and asking them if they ordered their own.
Biden ordered takeout, so it’s not clear if the president is willing to eat indoors. D.C. allows dining rooms to operate at 25 percent capacity right now, which appears to be more restrictive than every other major city in the country.
The president’s motorcade has previously visited trendy D.C. bagel shop Call Your Mother’s location in Georgetown. Dr. Jill Biden, the First Lady, has been spotted at the Sweet Lobby bakery in Capitol Hill.