Washington DC is a great weekend trip for New Yorkers looking for a change of scenery without sacrificing the city lifestyle. I drove down to Maryland with my friends Chaz and Vikky where we were lucky enough to have housing accommodations and were meeting with our other friend Suzy, a DC native to show us around town. After wandering around landmarks it was lunch time and Suzy instantly recommended Ben's Chili Bowl on nearby U street. Ben's is one of DC's most famous establishments, as I have seen it on various travel and foodie television shows discussing its rich history. It was the moment of truth, and I wanted to see if the food at Ben's Chili Bowl lived up to its hype.
After a short ride on the efficient Metro system we arrived and quickly spotted the bright red, yellow and white building. To no surprise there was a line out the door. Thankfully it was a beautiful March afternoon and we did not mind the wait. The line moved quickly though and after 1o minutes we were ushered inside to another line. Suzy and I quickly grabbed a corner table while Chaz and Vikky ordered. The place was packed, but had plenty of seats. A few booths and tables occupied the front of the restaurant along with some stools right next to all of the cooking action. In the back was a larger seating area that catered to parties with 6 or more people. The ordering process was organized and turned out to be very efficient. The outdoor crowd is brought in slowly, which is a smart way to avoid chaos inside. After ordering the staff notices where you are seated and brings your order over to the table. The overall process is stress free and faster then it originally appears.
The bustling atmosphere inside Ben's was great. It was packed with what seemed like a mostly tourist crowd of families, friends and couples. In the background soulful music was loudly playing, as well as hard working staff members shouting out orders.
Okay, decision time!!! I went simple and ordered the classic chili dog with a side of fries.
The chili dog was a standard size but smothered with flavorful chili! Only a tip of the hot dog was showing. The generous portion of chili on top was very smooth and had lots of tasty spice. It all came together very well once combined with the hot dog, mustard and finely chopped onions. I finished it in about 5 bites and managed not to spill any, but make sure to have napkins nearby in case of chili overboard!
I made the bonehead decision to accompany my dog with a side of regular fries but got to sample my friends' orders of chili and chili-cheese fries which were both very good. I personally enjoyed the chili fries the best, as the addition of cheese made the fries a little too heavy - but were great for a couple of bites. Definitely be prepared to eat these fries with a fork!
I was representing my New York Rangers in DC by wearing my jersey (the game was later that day) which caught the attention of one employee walking by. This dude was big, and looked pissed off! He asked each of my friends individually:
"Is this guy with you???" with a very stern tone.
We laughed as he explained that this was "Ovi's town which means no Rangers, No Penguins, just Caps!"
It was all in good fun as my friends and I laughed about it while struggling to finish the remaining fries . I loved that somebody noticed that I was an outsider by my jersey and it showed the hockey craziness of DC that I sometimes question.
Ben's Chili Bowl is the real deal. Great food, great atmosphere and a place to kick back with friends. If you don't believe me, you can ask this guy ...