President Barack Obama popped into a Chicago restaurant one morning this week for breakfast — but such "random" stops are anything but that.
"Every once in a while, I’m able to sneak off," he told ABC News
. "I’m sort of like the circus bear that kind of breaks the chain — and I start taking off, and everybody starts whispering, the bear’s loose."
Obama shocked diners at Valois Restaurant on the city's west side on Friday when he stopped in for breakfast — two eggs, over medium, with bacon, toast, and hash browns — but the site was carefully selected, screened, and reviewed by the Secret Service and other Obama staffers.
He paid for his meal. "I never take free food," Obama said.
For security reasons, the "off-the-record" stops are planned in secret and kept from reporters until the moment the president arrives, ABC reports.
They include visits to local stores, drop-ins at Little League games, even stops for burgers and shakes.
He and Vice President Joe Biden last week stopped in a Shake Shack restaurant near the White House in a hastily arranged visit, Washington television station WJLA reports
. They were there to promote government-financed work projects and a proposed minimum wage increase.
With these visits, Obama hopes to meet Americans, while honing his image and allowing the president of the United States to enjoy regular activities.
For instance, Obama caught reporters off guard on Wednesday when he walked from the White House to an event at the Interior Department. It's about a half-mile walk.
"It's good to be loose," he told reporters. "The bear is loose."
Obama surprised tourists on the National Mall, greeting some and shaking hands as he passed by. One tourist was from Israel, while another group was visiting from China.
Despite the security detail and other police officers in tow, a woman asked Obama if he was real.
"Someone’s gonna think you’re like wax!" she said, ABC reports, while posing with the president for a picture.
He also handed boxes of White House M&M’s to two girls — ages 7 and "4 and three quarters," according to ABC.
Obama then headed across the street.
"Sorry to hold you up," he told motorists as he walked by. "You’re trying to go home and here I am messing you up."
The street had been blocked off, ABC reports.
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