Lots of hype but worth the try.
hile it may not be the best hot dog I've ever had, the one I devoured at Ben's is damn near the top. After hearing people rave about it on Yelp for so long, and seeing it on virtually every travel or food show that does a DC episode I finally made it over to U Street to visit this landmark (albeit, in transit to another destination for a Yelp event) over the summer to partake of their meaty goodness.
Ah, the half-smoke. It's rarely a bad idea to mix meats, and Ben's follows that rule to the highest degree. This dog brilliantly blends multiple flavors for optimal deliciousness, and tops it off with a bit of mildly spicy chili. There's not much in the way of available toppings, but who needs it when you've got some of the best chili in the city? As a true Southerner I am of course compelled to add some ketchup and hot sauce (I put that stuff on everything!) and just a tidbit of mustard. The man inside me wasn't quite satisfied enough with that though, so I had it topped with gooey cheese as well, a full scale overflowing mess in the making.
Don't worry though, they give you chips to clean up all your sloppy drippings with. Bonus!
Take a Bite out of History Here. Even if most of the times I've been to Ben's I was looking for a late-night snack after bar-hopping down U St., I'll still say this place is great at any time of day. Everyone knows of Ben's Chili Bowl as a DC institution, a part of history that's survived years of both good and bad. Considering that, then you know the food must be good if it's still around. I'm a fan of their chili half-smokes with cheese, which are insanely meaty and heavy and all-around delicious. But of course with food like cheese fries and loaded half-smokes, Ben's is more a treat than a go-to for when your own kitchen pantry fails you. Even breakfast is delicious and greasy with their egg and cheese sandwiches, hotcakes, etc. Go here and sit in the restaurant if you can so you can marvel at all their memorabilia. But even if there's no room, don't pass up a half-smoke to-go.
Historically a favorite amongst everyone, even presidents. If you are living in D.C. or even just visiting D.C. you cannot go long without stopping by Ben's Chili Bowl. One of the most well-known places in D.C., Ben's Chili bowl is a favorite amongst locals, celebrities and even the president. Nothing cures a hangover or satisfies a late-night than a half-smoke, chili fries and a drink at Ben's. You can't go wrong ordering from their menu and although I sometimes feel like I am in NY city inside their place with the fast paced ordering and loud chatter, Ben's is a favorite by all who visit. Don't be scared if you see a long line out the door, this is typical for Ben's but trust me it is worth the wait! Sometimes you are even lucky enough to be one of their late night visitors that gets a special history lesson from one of their staff. Its definitely part of the whole D.C. experience that you cannot miss out on!
Citysearch Editorial Review. A tradition in D.C. dining, Ben’s Chili Bowl rose to classics status thanks to its house specialty: a chili half-smoke smothered with onions, mustard, cheese and chili sauce. The wall of photographs acts as a who's-who of local and international celebrities--including Bono, Chuck Brown and Hillary Clinton--and the restaurant has no qualms with playing favorites; there's a sign that says only Bill Cosby and the Obamas eat free. Founder Ben Ali, who passed away in early October 2009, started Ben's in 1958 on what was then known as "Black Broadway"; jazz legends such as Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald were regulars. It remains a family run business, with friendly servers acting as in-house historians who can give a lesson on U Street history during dinner.
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