Well well folks- it's December, that part of the year we take a month long recess from our restrictive diets (and fake diets) we've challenged ourselves with ALL year! If you're ditching your strict meal plans to get into some comfort food- I hope you're doing it with the right kitchens! I happen to be from the restaurant capital of the world (New York City) which has made me a very snobby food critic when I travel city to city. Since I've moved to DC in 2015, I've found that I'm still very much that hard-to-impress annoying New Yorker yapping about my dining experience everywhere that I eat. However, there's one DC jewel that's earned a special place in my belly's memory bank:
Ben's Chili Bowl! I just don't know where to start with this amazing family owned establishment nestled in the heart of the historic U Street Corridor in North West DC! In the Fall of 2015, I oh so casually grabbed a seat in Ben's Chili Bowl totally unaware of the greatness I had just walked into. (I was new to DC, chill). I remember ordering a turkey burger very late at night (this is a fast food spot with healthy options, fist pump) and moving on with my evening. HA! What the hell was I thinking? I do remember eating A LOT healthy at that time in my life but anyyyy Ben's Chili Bowl VIRGIN needs to go directly to their popular 'half smokes'! I didn't come to this realization until exactly ONE YEAR AFTER I first walked into Ben's! My food destiny finally manifested on a cold Sunday morning in November when I was asked to take photos for Ben's 58th Anniversary campaign. Talk about LATE!!!
So here I was- camera in hand at the WTOP-FM station patiently waiting for hosts David and Nycci Nellis to start their weekly show 'Foodie and the Beast' where they try local dining- old and new to the DC area to critique on live radio. This particular week, Kamaal Ali would be featured to discuss the 58th Anniversary of DC's best fast food joint, Ben's Chili Bowl. He is the co-owner and son of Ben Ali- a Trinidadian immigrant who built this family business with wife Virginia Rollins in 1958. To my pleasant surprise, Kamaal brought more than enough samples of their original chili half-smoke sausage for every one in the room. This is a juicy, perfectly grilled chili dog that you MUST dress with onions and mustard. So it's 11AM and I have my right hand on my camera, and my left on the pride of DC! Totally unbothered, I'm in sausage heaven. HA!
So let's just make one thing clear- you have not really visited Washington D.C. until you've dined at Ben's Chili Bowl. There's no excuse for not making it either- because they have a number of different locations: U Street, H Street, over the bridge in Arlington, and right off the airplane in Reagan National Airport. No excuses. None. So if you're in DC for the holidays visiting family or want to up your palette game in 2017- make your way over to Ben's Chili Bowl! You won't regret it!
P.S. Ben's Next Door and Ben's Upstairs are two trendy spin-off's of the classic restaurant. That Sunday photo session at WTOP was just a couple hours before a brunch date I planned with my girl friend at Ben's Next Door... I ordered their chicken and waffles pictured above and it was the best I ever had. Their fried chicken batter....soooo good it'll make you wanna slap your...you know the rest. That day was just truly unforgettable. Happy 58th to Ben's! Check out their site for anniversary specials and promotions!