Eating at the Historic Ben’s Chili Bowl (Washington D.C.)

Aside from eating in the windy city, I take advantage of other culinary delights (or failings) that other cities have to offer. In this post, I head to Washington D.C.

Few years back, I spent a summer as an intern in D.C., going to as many free food events that would allow me in. Sadly, I never visited Ben’s Chili Bowl and years later, I was able to amend this oversight.

Ben's Chili Bowl

Ben’s Chili Bowl is literally across the street from the U Street Metro station and if you’re lucky, the line for the food will be contained inside the restaurant. I’ve heard that the line could go out the door!

Staff 1

Inside, it’s chaos. There’s a big line that swerves, there’s people coming in and out for lunch/dinner/etc. and tables of smiling customers. The kitchen is open for everyone to see and has a lot of people manning them.


There’s even more seating in the back, where groups of people come out of nowhere, like a never ending line of clowns coming out of a clown car. There’a also fun memorabilia lining the walls and surrounding the customers. You can tell a lot of love was put into this place.

More Staff

Did I mention there’s a lot of staff? Just. Everywhere. In any case, BE and I stood in line, but a couple had graciously let us know that they were leaving their spot at the counter and we gratefully sat down and ordered our food. PRO TIP: Get a seat at the counter! You can order right away and your food comes way more quickly.

Chili Cheese Fries

We ordered the chili cheese fries and began stuffing our faces. I know, it’s not healthy, but it sure tasted good! The chili was not too spicy, but not bland. It was meaty, but not too thick either. It’s not one of those complicated has a lot of stuff in it chilis either. It was just right. Kind of like how goldie locks was eating the three bears’ porridge and at the “just right” bowl. No WONDER the chili is put on nearly everything on the menu! And having cheese accompany it made it even more delightful.

Chili Hamburger

BE ordered the chili hamburger and he gave me a thumbs up as he ate his way through meal. He was surprised that the chili worked well with the burger and demolished it in no time. For the burger enthusiasts, I think our burgers were cooked through, no semi-rare or pinkness in the residing meat. Plain potato chips came with the burger on the side.

Chili Cheeseburger

I got the chili cheese burger and was excited to see the chili spilling out of the burger. It was meaty, chili-y and messy to eat. As I was taking another bite into my burger, an employee spilled my water onto my chips and platter. I had to take a 5 minute break from eating to clean up water around me and BE. They apologized, but it kind of dampened my mood a bit. Another PRO TIP: Try not to sit too close to the line of people and counter space as we did. Employees are always filling orders so you’ll have to watch out for their run bys. Also, when customers order food and then wait for it, they stand behind you and crowd up space so if you’re claustrophobic, avoid this.


And if you happened to be in the Obama Family or Bill Cosby, you will always eat free. And no one else.

Chili Half Smoke Full Shot

I couldn’t resist ordering their infamous chili half smoke aka “Bill Cosby’s Original Chili Half-Smoke.” It’s Mr. Cosby’s favorite and they named it after him! Well, the man knows what he’s talking about because it’s glorious. Another PRO TIP: order it at the restaurant because when you get it as take out, the chili doesn’t pool all over the half-smoke and doesn’t make it fun and messy to eat. I also suspect that they can’t put as much chili on it if it’s a to go order.

Chili Half Smoke

1/4 lb of pork and beef smoked sausage deliciousness. The chili, onions, mustard, juicy meat all came together. I asked BE if he wanted some and he said no, he was stuffed from eating earlier. So I commenced in gleefully finishing it. So delicious, so tasty. If you’re around, you must go and visit!

Ben’s Chili Bowl

1213 U ST, NW

Washington D.C., DC 20009-4442

(202) 667-0909

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