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Foodstuffs: In Campaign Season, N.H. Diners Offer Comfort Food and Politics

Neighborhood diners have been a staple campaign visit in New Hampshire for decades. They offer easy access to voters, a wide-range of age groups and personable settings. The Corner View Restaurant in Concord is one of the many popular stops candidates make on the campaign diner tour. 

This local restaurant in McKee Square, which has been serving breakfast, lunch and dinner since 1996, has had its fair share of candidates over the past few decades: Al Gore, John Edwards and former President George Bush. This year, Chris Christie, Bernie Sanders, Ben Carson and Rand Paul have made visits.

Restaurant owner Art Thomas said because the Corner View brings in a wide range of people, it is a good spot for candidates to reach all types of voters. 

“It’s one of the few real neighborhood eateries that brings in A to Z cliental from the city… doctors, lawyers, older people, retired, working people,” said Thomas on Tuesday, the day of Paul's visit.

And with only roughly 20 tables, the restaurant is also a good place for voters to get some one-on-one time with the candidates -- whether that means asking for autographs, taking selfies or, in the case of the Rebecca Chicoine of Laconia, asking  Paul to sign his family cookbook.

Credit Paige Sutherland/NHPR
Sen. Rand Paul signs a copy of the cookbook his family published at the Corner View Restaurant.

 There's also the opportunity for more serious interactions, such as when Jean Barlett of Deering asked Paul about the militarization of the police force. 

Getting up close and personal with candidates at no-frills diners like the Corner View is what New Hampshire politics is all about.

But being a political set piece has not changed how Thomas runs his restaurant. No extra specials, no advertising and no political memorabilia are draped on the walls when candidates arrive. 

“We don’t do anything out of the ordinary, we don’t even announce it, we just let the regular folks come in as is,” Thomas said.

Customers like Carole Webb of Bow, who has been a regular here for 30 years, enjoy that easy atmosphere. 

“It’s a comfortable place to come," Webb said. "I’ve gotten to know the waitresses and I got coffee and water on the table when I get here, and it is kinda fun."

Credit Geoff Forester/Concord Monitor
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has his photo taken with Rebecca Duana, 9, of Concord at the Corner View Restaurant on June 6. Christie's wife Mary Pat took the photo of the pair as they made their way around the entire restaurant.

As Thomas will tell you, the cooking isn’t anything fancy, but that’s what gives the restaurant its charm, he said. 

“It’s not a high pedigree organization with a lot of sauté and chef work in the back, it is just a place you want to go to when you’re hungry,” he said.

The menu ranges from traditional style breakfast and turkey clubs, to meatloaf and lobster rolls with specials for every day of the week – all at a reasonable price. 

“It’s down home cooking, New Hampshire style,” said Penny Young of Concord, a diner at the Corner View for 20 years.

Thomas expects more presidential candidates to stop by later this year, but said he isn’t holding his breath for the current GOP frontrunner. 

“The one guy I haven’t seen yet is Donald Trump, and I’m not so sure I will," Thomas said. "I think his jet wouldn’t land in Concord.”

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