Sunday, December 11, 2011

Ben's Chili Bowl

I have been silent because I have been starving myself in anticipation of this past weekend.  (That would never be true because I have zero will power.)  Charlie is here visiting which equals about two weeks of eating ridiculous amounts.  We took a little trip this weekend to DC, Delaware and Philly and as a result I do not need to eat again for the next five days.  I just like to think of binge eating as stocking up for winter hibernation but in the summer I have no excuse.  Anyway, I bring you the self-proclaimed Washington landmark: Ben's Chili Bowl.
If any of you are like me and spent hours upon hours of college weekends watching the Travel Channel, you may remember seeing Ben's on Man vs. Food or Anthony Bourdain or any of the other non-descript best-of-the-country shows that never seem to end.  The signature dish at Ben's is called the Chili Half-Smoke, and they can be seen piled high on the grill in the front window.  It's a half pork, half beef sausage on a bun covered in onions, mustard and chili.  We each got one and also ordered cheese fries, homemade coleslaw and a cherry shake.  Might as well go for it.
Considering how many calories this must have been, how could this meal have been anything other than blissful?  The half-smoked had a really nice spice to it and was grilled to perfection with appropriate snap to the casing and coarsely ground meat.  The thick chili was a really nice addition but was not as spicy as I would have expected.  The fries were done well and while the ones at the bottom were a bit soggy with cheese, I was glad that we did not run out of cheese after the top layer of fries.  I was really impressed with the coleslaw; it was finely chopped and light on the mayo for a nice refreshing break, although it was quite a small portion.  Charlie's cherry shake was really tasty but it was so thick that it was hard to suck it up through the straw.  After it melted a bit it was better.  All of our food was very hot, came out quickly and only cost around $15.

I think this place gets a lot of late-night business since its on U Street, and I can understand that it would feel more justified to eat this if I was drunk.  Let's face it, Ben's should never become a habit. I would put it on the same once-every-three-months level as Five Guys.  We could barely move for 20 minutes after finishing this.  But, if you're in DC it is a must-visit, even if it's just for a shake and to see Obama's photo on the wall.  

Ben's Chili Bowl: 1213 U Street, Washington D.C. (202) 667-0909 

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