Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Ben's Chili Bowl in Washington DC

Ben's Chili Bowl is a restaurant in Washington DC that is pretty famous. As their sign says out front, it's been a Washington Landmark since 1958. When I got out of the U Street Metro Station and saw Ben's Chili Bowl across the street and recognized the name, I decided I must eat there.
They have had some pretty famous customers. Apparently Bill Cosby is a regular here. President Obama also ate here as well, and Ben's Chili Bowl definitely wants you to know this. Both are showcased on a huge mural on the side of the restaurant.
Ben's Chili Bowl was pretty crowded on the night I visited. The line went almost out the door. Seems like this place is also popular with the late night bar crowd.
Even though the restaurant is called Ben's Chili Bowl, it seemed like hot dogs called smokes were featured more on the menu than the actual chili. Lots and lots of these smokes were being grilled just behind the restaurant's front window.
I went in planning on just trying the chili. We had already had dinner earlier, but I figured why not get a snack and try a Washington landmark restaurant while I was there. When I actually got to the restaurant, I changed my mind and decided to try Bill Cosby's Favorite Original Half-Smoke. I'm not even a big fan of hot dogs, but I figured I'd find out what the fuss was about. This was a 1/4 pound, half pork/half beef smoked sausage topped with mustard, onions, and chili. Potato chips were served on the side. The most surprising thing about the whole dish was actually the chili. I have a pretty high tolerance for spicy foods, but this chili had quite the kick to it. Spicy chili is good! Besides the chili, everything else seemed pretty standard for a chili dog to me.
I don't think I'd go out of my way to return to Ben's Chili Bowl, but I can now say I've eaten Bill Cosby's favorite chili dog in a Washington landmark that has fed presidents. I don't know what it is, but classic hot dog/hamburger restaurants like this always have a nice vibe to them, but the food just doesn't do it for me. Perhaps if I liked hot dogs a bit more? Much like The Varsity in Atlanta or Nathan's in Coney Island, I can cross Ben's Chili Bowl off my list as a must-eat food experience.

Ben's Chili Bowl on Urbanspoon

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