Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the length of time that transpired between the dinner and the party's call to add money to the tip. That has been corrected in this version.
He may be the nation’s foremost fiscal conservative, but Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner will still open his wallet for some good seafood.
The Ohio congressman swept through Half Moon Bay for dinner earlier this week while coming out to the Peninsula on a fundraising tour. Boehner was in the area to speak at a $1,000-a-plate dinner in Woodside to raise money for his upcoming re-election campaign.
The day before the fundraiser, Boehner landed his plane at the Half Moon Bay Airport, and while in town he wanted to try out some local cuisine.
Sam’s Chowder House owner Paul Shenkman says he first became suspicious that someone big was coming when he spotted some San Mateo County Sheriff’s deputies snooping around the restaurant parking lot. Later that evening, a team of Secret Service agents approached him and asked if a VIP could have the private back room. That was fine, said Shenkman, who was mystified who his guest would be.
“They didn’t tell me who it was,” he said. “It was a lot of cloak and dagger stuff.”
Just minutes before a fleet of black SUVs drove up to the restaurant, a Secret Service agent told Shenkman that the Speaker of the House would be dining there. Boehner came in through a back entrance with three associates, and they sat down to eat with his eight-person security entourage.
One of the Boehner’s security detail had reportedly eaten at the restaurant before and had recommended the Speaker try it while in town.
The speaker tried an assortment of seafood, including ahi tuna, shrimp, clams, oysters and ceviche along with a bowl of clam chowder. The Secret Service agents all ate the restaurant’s signature lobster rolls.
Boehner, who has staked his political career on spending reductions, nonetheless made no attempt to haggle down the costs of his meal. He paid the bill and posed for a couple pictures with Shenkman, who politely offered to send the speaker a framed copy to hang up.
The group left in a hurry, leaving a tip that reportedly left the server feeling a little unappreciated.
An hour later, a Secret Service agent phoned Sam’s Chowder House, saying he realized they skimped on the tip. He asked the restaurant to add another $30 to the bill.
Boehner wasn’t the only high-level politician in the area for a fundraiser this week. The speaker’s visit coincided with a fundraising tour by President Barack Obama with events in Woodside, Redwood City and San Jose.
When he first saw the Secret Service agents patrolling his restaurant, Shenkman initially believed it might actually be the president who was coming by. He related this to one of the Secret Service agents.
“The agent said, ‘Nah. For that, we would’ve closed the whole restaurant,” Shenkman recalled.