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At Charmington's, the president ate well and tipped very well

The chair the president sat in at Charmington's has been immortalized with black marker.

"President Barack Obama sat here 1/15/15," someone wrote on the chair following the president's visit Thursday, although the restaurant's managing partner, Amanda Rothschild, wasn't sure who did it.

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Obama ordered two sandwiches at the restaurant: the roast beef and cheddar on white bread and a turkey avocado wrap, and he later added in a small roasted beet salad (but without the beets). He ate some of his meal, offered bites to his luncheon guests and took half of the roast beef sandwich with him.

A presidential aide paid the $60 bill (the president treated his guests) in cash, and added a $30 tip.

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"It was quite an honor to serve the president," said Dan Scott, a partner at Charmington's. Jess Kemp, another Charmington's partner, said that customers have been coming asking for "the presidential special."

The president had come to Charmington's, a cooperatively run cafe on the border of Charles Village and Remington, to promote a proposal to guarantee paid sick leave for millions more American workers.

Scott took the president’s order (indirectly, from an aide), and Kemp had the honor of preparing it, under the watchful gaze of a Secret Service agent.

"He told me to pretend he wasn't there," Kemp recalled. Everyone in the president's detail was very nice to deal with, the partners agreed.

When Rothschild woke up on Thursday, she knew she was having a lunch meeting with someone from the White House about paid sick leave, an issue she has been involved with, but she didn't know whom.

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The communications she had been receiving for days from the White House were almost oddly secretive about who she'd be meeting with, Rothschild said.

On Wednesday night, she was told to show up at 11:30 a.m., the next day at Sweet 27, a neighboring restaurant, where she'd be meeting with someone very high up in the administration, but she still wasn't told who it was.

"I started planning for it as though it were someone very high," Rothschild said. "I was thinking it might be Michelle [Obama]. I was actually hoping it would be Michelle."

Rothschild said she knew the First Lady had an interest in the issue of sick leave, having heard her speak about maternity leave at June's Working Families Summit.

When she got to Sweet 27, she met her lunch mates, Morvika Jordan and Mary Stein, who had also been involved with sick-leave issues. That's when she found out the big news.

"They said we're not going to be meeting with the senior white house staff," Rothschild recalled. "We're meeting with the president."

Rothschild was handed an agenda, and noticed, printed at the top, that the meeting was going to take place not at Sweet 27 but at Charmington's. That's how she found out, she said.

By that time, however, Rothschild said, her phone had been taken away. So she couldn't alert her staff or publicize the visit on social media.

About a half hour before the president's arrival, the full staff was informed of the president's impending arrival. That's when the customers at Charmington's found out, too. They were given the option of leaving before the president arrived. But once he got there, they were told, they would have to stay until he left.

"They've got this down-pat," Rothschild said.

And, Rothschild said, no one left.

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