Ben’s Chili Bowl has been a Washington DC landmark since its opening in 1958 by newlyweds Ben and Virginia Ali. It has been honored with an America’s Classics award from the James Beard Foundation.
Located in the U Street Corridor, this neighborhood was the city’s version of New York’s Harlem during the 1960s race riots. The restaurant has all its original interiors, including the old-school counter and booths.
Open until 4 am on weekends, on any given day you can spot a celebrity here, whose pictures plaster the wall of Ben’s Chili Bowl. President Barack Obama ate here a few days before his inauguration in 2009 and eats for free when he visits.
I recommend going before you get very hungry because you will be waiting in line any time you go. While you can’t go wrong with anything on the menu, the most well-known item is the “half smoke.” It consists of a half pork half beef hot dog, topped in Ben’s original recipe chili.
Get a side of fries to mop up the extra chili. For only $5.70, you may not find a cheaper meal in Washington DC. They also offer hamburgers, bowls of chili, vegetarian and healthier substitutes, and even breakfast.
If You Go
Ben’s Chili Bowl is located at 1213 U Street NW, Washington DC 20009, right across from the U Street Metro Station. The restaurant is open Monday through Thursday from 6 am to 2 am, Fridays 6 am to 4 am, Saturdays 7 am to 4 am and Sundays from 11 am to 12 am. It’s cash only, so come prepared.