Months of waiting ended for an Annapolis deli owner yesterday evening when the announcement came from the upper reaches of the White House staff: Deep-six the steak-and-cheese sandwich.
President Clinton, who promised to usher in an era of change in American politics, broke with six previous administrations by ordering a turkey on whole wheat as the sandwich that will bear his name at Chick & Ruth's Delly.
At the Main Street establishment, the bill of fare reads like a political Who's Who.
"He wants a healthy one, huh?" said Ted Levitt of Reisterstown, who runs the deli with his father, Chick Levitt. "Well, that's what we'll make. He's the president of the United States."
Every president since Lyndon B. Johnson has chosen steak and cheese with onions on a kaiser roll. The steak sandwich has borne the name of George Bush through most of the Clinton administration's first 100 days, as Chick Levitt has waited months for an answer from the White House to his letter and phone calls.
"We have been overwhelmed by the amount of mail we've received," Lorraine Voles, a White House spokeswoman, said in a statement released yesterday. "But we would like to correct the situation and if it would be OK with Chick's Delly we would like number 14 to be the Bill Clinton. The president's favorite sandwich is turkey on toasted whole wheat with lettuce and tomato."
The announcement comes not a moment too soon. Mr. Levitt, 65, who wears a crisp, white jacket and black bow tie, has been planning to update his menu, removing the names of defeated politicians.
He sent a letter in late November inviting the president to either continue with the traditional beefy presidential sandwich or choose a new one. A reply arrived three months later, but it had little to do with down-home cooking.
"Thank you so much for taking the time to write," stated the Feb. 12 form letter with Mr. Clinton's signature. "I am touched by the many letters of encouragement and advice I have received from people, like you, who care deeply about the future of our country. Together, we can change America."
Yesterday Ms. Voles said, "We apologize for not answering the letter more specifically."
The letter left Mr. Levitt a little peeved. But he understood that the president is a busy man, so he picked up the phone and called the White House. After nearly two hours of trying to make himself understood, he gave up in disgust.
A man of good faith, Mr. Levitt declined to follow the advice of one local wag who suggested a sandwich comprised of "just bologna."
He says Mr. Clinton is always welcome at Chick & Ruth's.
"He keeps taking these walks and stopping at McDonald's," he said. "Why not some mom and pop place?"