When Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. was in Congress, he was all hot dog and bologna. As governor, he's a white bread turkey.
That's not political commentary, just the new political menu at Annapolis' Chick and Ruth's Delly.
Chick and Ruth's - the Main Street restaurant that has been spelling "deli" wrong and serving up sandwiches with political names for almost four decades - will unveil its new menu next week, its biggest rewrite in years.
Ehrlich's new sandwich ("All white meat turkey on white bread; the Governor suggests mustard and lots of our kosher pickles") and a steak salad named for Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele are among the additions to the eight-page menu, which is revised after every election.
Ted Levitt, who took over the restaurant after the death of his parents, Chick and Ruth, said he has heard all the jokes about the politicians on his pages.
Among the new ones: Speaker of the House Del. Michael E. Busch, an Anne Arundel County Democrat, is a shrimp - well, shrimp salad. Del. Kumar P. Barve, a Montgomery County Democrat, is a chicken - a chicken Parmesan sub. And Del. David G. Boschert, an Anne Arundel Republican, has a head of lettuce - in chef's salad form.
Not every politician gets a spot on Chick and Ruth's menu, despite efforts by some to slip Levitt business cards with their favorite sandwich or salad written on the back.
"Everyone that's on here has been a regular customer for years," Levitt said.
That rule applies to everyone except the president, vice president, governor and lieutenant governor. They get sandwiches whether or not they have eaten at the restaurant, where the Pledge of Allegiance is recited weekdays at 8:30 a.m. and former Gov. Marvin Mandel can be found nearly every morning in the reserved governor's booth.
Seldom is a freshman in the General Assembly given a space on the menu. But this year Sen. Rona E. Kramer, a Montgomery County Democrat - whose father, former Democratic Sen. Sid Kramer, also was a regular - was rewarded with a hot dog.
"There are not a lot of people we put on their first year," Levitt said. "But because we've known her and liked her, we put her on."
Kramer relishes the honor, especially since Ehrlich and other high-ranking politicians have been hot dogs before her.
"I guess it bodes well," Kramer said. "I'm happy to be a hot dog. It won't be the first time I've been referred to that way."
Retired or ousted politicians are given a few months' grace before they are removed from the menu.
Mandel and former two-term Annapolis Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins are the only Maryland officials who retained their slots after leaving office - Mandel for his loyalty, Hopkins for his longevity. Golda Meir - prime minister of Israel from 1969 to 1974 - also still has a sandwich named after her on the menu. After all, it is a Jewish deli, Levitt explained.
New politicians are able to choose their specialty item or take the place of a former official with one of the deli's standards.
Occasionally, the politicians' choices surprise Levitt, whose menu includes combinations such as Mayor Ellen O. Moyer's cream cheese and olives on toast.
When the lieutenant governor decided he wanted a steak salad, Levitt wasn't sure how to make it. When Steele described it through an aide, Levitt was even more perplexed. Did Steele really want French fries tossed in with the salad? The deli owner didn't believe it.
But that's the way Steele likes it. Still, Levitt worried that it wouldn't sell that way, so the dish is described like this on the menu: "Tossed salad topped with sliced rib-eye steak; the Lieutenant Governor suggests add fries tossed in with the salad."
Levitt claims to be completely nonpartisan. And a patron would be hard-pressed to find a political message in his menu options.
After all, during last year's election, Ehrlich and former Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend were kosher hot dogs - with different toppings.