When Trump Went to 21 Club for a Burger, I Sat at the Next Table

  • As Trump entered the room, some applauded, others stood up
  • A $36 burger, fries and virgin Bloody Mary for next president

Donald Trump Gives Press the Slip to Go for a $36 Burger

As I was finishing a cheeseburger at Manhattan’s 21 Club last night, I saw my colleagues’ eyes suddenly fixated over my shoulder. Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner had taken seats at a table right behind me.

When Donald Trump entered shortly thereafter, the room was abuzz. Some people stood up, some applauded, though it wasn’t universal. But, unlike the daily protests outside Trump Tower, there was no outward hostility from the patrons. He appeared at ease, making his way around the room, shaking hands with those who offered, before finding his table.

He sat down between his wife Melania and daughter Tiffany. One of my dinner companions identified us as journalists from Bloomberg News. Now, we had been there for a couple hours at that point and were disconnected from the news. We soon discovered that Trump’s campaign had said he was in for the night and hadn’t notified the press corps he had left Trump Tower. A colleague’s tweet that erroneously said we were at another restaurant -- Keens, not 21 Club -- inadvertently sent others in the press into a frenzy.

The Trumps weren’t particularly loud during their meal, perhaps wary of being overheard from their place in the center of the room. I caught whiffs of analysis about their “60 Minutes” interview on Sunday and vague references to a woman who would make a great press secretary. The Secret Service had a presence but wasn’t suffocating.

The president-elect got a burger with fries and a drink that a colleague thought was a virgin Bloody Mary. (He doesn’t drink alcohol.) So, technically, it wasn’t a steak dinner. At $36, though, the burger’s among the city’s most expensive. 

I’m not exactly a regular at 21 Club but my first editor at Bloomberg News has a tradition of taking me and three other reporters out to a fancy dinner once a year.

When our meal ended, we wandered over to the front bar room. An hour later, people lined up to see Trump and his family exit. (An NBC video would show him saying “we’ll get your taxes down” as he made his way out.) Only one or two people among the dozens clapped. Many of the others were frantically snapping pictures with their smartphones. One man nearby shouted “Thank you, Donald.”

Minutes later, perhaps even on the short ride home, he was back on Twitter.

“Very organized process taking place as I decide on Cabinet and many other positions. I am the only one who knows who the finalists are!”