So on Saturday my friends and I hit up Ben's Chili Bowl in Washington D.C. An institution in the D. C. area, Ben's has been serving up chili, chili dogs, and burgers with fries (with chili of course) and shakes (sans chili) to people of all creeds, colors, religions, and Bill Cosby for 50 years. It was no wonder that when we got to the place there was a line out of the restaurant and around the corner into their back alley. Although the line was long, it did not take long to be welcomed into the raucous cacophony that was at times part side show and part celebration of good greasy-ass food. Upon getting into Ben's dining room you are forcefully but politely shown the end of the line, where once settled in the stimuli hit you like Go-Go music in the middle of a hurricane. People are shouting, singing, chewing, laughing, giving orders, dancing and eating all at once. We were lucky enough to score a table thus foregoing the need to stand in line to order our dogs. The service at this joint should be a shining example to all restaurants in the country. Within five minutes of sitting down, we were asked by six servers if we were being helped, which we already were of course. And these servers don't play around Jack; they want your drink orders when you sit down and your food order by the time they bring your drinks. They have to be ruthlessly efficient to be able to turn the tables over to sit the people that are literally around the corner waiting for their chance to sample that famous chili. We ordered the half smokes (the Cos's favorite) which are a spicy mixture of beef and pork topped with mustard , onions, and chili (the holy trinity of encased meat emulsions). Also ordered were the chili fries, regular chili dogs and chili burgers. Oddly enough, no one in our party actually ordered the chili by itself, so I guess I'll have to wait till next time. Overall, there is a really good time to be had at Ben's Chili Bowl, its not the best chili hot dog I've ever had (I'm a dirty water dog girl myself), but it is a unique experience. Being surrounded by photos of the years gone by, tourists from all over the world, and the servers running around like mad while Chuck Brown, The Junkyard Band, or James Brown kick out the jams there is a feeling of family. Its sort of like going to your friends house where you don't know his mother, but she treats you like one of her own children... no special treatment (if Dr. Cornell West doesn't get it neither do you). Basically, I can't wait to go back before hitting up the galleries and dropping by the White house to hang out with Barry.
All Photos ©2009 John Houser III