Today for lunch my close friend and I went to Ben's Chili Bowl on U Street in the District. Upon entering you are aware that the amount of caloric consumption you are about to encounter is equal to an entire weekends worth of food, including alcoholic beverages. My friend joked that if you're coming here, you're going balls to the wall, ordering hot dogs, fries, shakes, whatever it takes to get the full experience of Ben's. At a place that is frequented by politicians and actors (including President Obama and Secretary Hillary Clinton), it's almost comical to see the ambiance that includes pushing you down a conveyor belt of ordering, paying, and receiving your meal that also ironically comes with an angioplasty ten years later.
I ordered the Half Smoke with chili, cheese, and onions. A Half Smoke is a slightly larger hot dog with a coarser grind of half beef and half pork, very tasty and usually only found around the DC area. We also got fries topped with cheese. The trick to eating Ben's dogs are you let the chili and other condiments slide down the dog and onto your "plate." You then use the potato chips, that come with every hot dog, to scoop up the chili and cheese, acting as almost a dip for your chips. The famous chili is quite delicious, tastes of real ground beef, with a slight heat as my friend described. I was missing some beans, which I usually put in my chili, but I would never dare to mess with Ben's chili.
Ben's an experience, both with the loud and crazy atmosphere and the yummy, sloppy food. It's a place you must hit up while in the District. Just be prepared to pay with cash and order quickly, they are very proficient about getting your food as fast as possible, so order, pay and enjoy!