Since its opening in 1958, Ben’s Chili Bowl has been known as a little mom and pop place off of U Street. Today, almost a half-century later, it’s about as historic as some of D.C.’s oldest buildings and monuments.
The crowd that consistently pours in and out proves that Ben’s must be doing something right. While the menu is simple, it’s superb if you’re a chili lover. Chilidogs, chili half-smoke sausages, chiliburgers, chiliburger subs, and just plain chili are your basic five options involving chili. The chili is spicy and full of flavor.
Other eats such as turkey or veggie burgers, tuna subs, or turkey dogs are also a possibility if you’re not a chili person. Dishes like homemade potato salad and coleslaw, or deserts like homemade cake and milkshakes are delicious eats. Hearty breakfasts are served each morning until 11 a.m., too.
The feel and environment of Ben’s is worth experiencing even if you don’t grab a bite to eat. The vibe is classic. This could be because not much has changed since it got its start 50 years ago by Ben and Virginia Ali. This includes the prices for main courses too, which range from $3.45 to $7.20. A jukebox pouring out good-time music, marble style counters, red vinyl seats, and black and white tile floors keep the 50/60s feel alive. Pictures on the wall of celebrity guests and frequenters of the establishment, including Bill Cosby, adorn the inside as well.
Dining at this place alone, with a couple friends, or with your entire extended family is doable. The recently opened cosmopolitan room seats around 20-60 people. Available for reservation only, this area serves large groups including tour groups, business meetings, and late night get-togethers.
Ben’s is open Monday-Thursday from 6 a.m. until 2 a.m.; Friday-Saturday from 6 a.m. until 4 a.m.; and on Sunday from noon until 8 p.m. Getting there is convenient too if you’re traveling via metro, as the nearest stop is the U Street/ Cardozo station.
Ben’s Chili Bowl 1213 U St. NW Washington, DC 202-667-0909