Ben’s Chili Bowl
July 27, 2012
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There are a few signs that sum up the vibe at Ben’s Chili Bowl. One reads “Black Owned and Operated Since 1958”. The other says “Only Bill Cosby and Obama/Family Eat Free. All Others Must Pay”. Nice.
The jukebox was playing James Brown, and Smokey Robinson. The folks behind the counter were dancing, chatty, and full of smiles. MG and I took a seat at the counter at 1am on a Thursday, and the place was hopping. We scanned the menu on the board above the griddle and decided on the signature dish, though in different ways.
I got a large bowl ($5.95) of their chili. This was very different from the chili that I’ve had at most barbeque joints. This is closer to a beef stew. While loaded with beans, it was not dominated by them. The chili certainly had plenty of kick and a good meaty flavor. The meat was tender and tasted fresh.
I wanted to try the potato salad, but they were out of it. Instead I got an order of cheese fries ($4.50). The order is very big. The fries are not exceptional, but are well prepared. They do not skimp on the cheese. Granted, this is not a fine cheese made from a blend of gruyere and cheddar. More akin to the liquid cheese they use at movie theaters for nachos, this goop was applied liberally to the spuds.
Instead of having the ingredients separately, MG just combined them all together in one dish of Chili Cheese Fries ($5.70).
This was junk food. Wonderful junk food. Junk food of the highest degree, the kind you have after an evening of downing beer and shots. It definitely left me with a doing 20 in a 50 kind of feeling. The sort of brick in the belly and steam coming out of my ears that only high-end junk food can bring. This is not a place for the health conscious. The menu also has a number of freshly made cakes and shakes.
Though we were there on a Thursday night, business was brisk. I’m sure that on a Friday night, the walls are rocking. They are open until 4am on the weekends.
Ben’s Chili Bowl
1213 U Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20009