A legendary restaurant on Washington, D.C.’s U Street known for its chili half-smokes. It also has stands at Nationals Park and FedEx Field and open. A Rosslyn location opened in 2014, more are slated for H Street NE and National Airport.
ARLINGTON, Va. — It took four months (I don’t take many lunches) but I finally made it to the newest Ben’s Chili Bowl location at 1725 Wilson Blvd. It’s between the Courthouse and Rosslyn Metro stations. I’d say it’s a 10 minute walk from Courthouse.
I had another customer in front of me, but the wait to order or recieve my order was probably just a little over five minutes. I got my usual, a half-smoke with mustard, onions and chili, plus fries and a Pepsi. It tasted like more or perhaps MOOOAARRRR!
The interior is pleasant and reminiscent of the original location, without being kitschy. One of the walls is a big celebration and timeline of Ben’s. Overall, it’s a pleasant design. They have a big screen on the opposite wall; it was playing a “Nats Classic” when I arrived, probably Stephen Strasburg’s second start (though it was the 9th inning, Tyler Clippard relieved Miguel Batista). Since it was nice day and the patio tables were still in shade, I enjoyed dining al fresco.
Today, Ben’s continues to expand with another Arlington location:
Pssst… Here's a super sneak peek at our new Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport location. See you there… http://t.co/djQQRZdV40
The new location is in the public area of the airport, lower level B/C – no TSA lines necessary. It’s an appropriate addition to one of the gateways to the city. Later this year, the long-planned H Street NE location will open along with Ben’s Next Door.
Located at 1725 Wilson Boulevard it’s closer to the Rosslyn Metro, but Court House doesn’t have such a steep walk (or escalators). This location is the first of three new locations that will open soon and hey, that’s walking distance from where I work! The others are going to be at 1001 H Street and National Airport. There are also Ben’s stands at Nationals Park and FedEx Field.
The addition of Ben’s is part of an aggressive push by airport officials to revamp concession offerings at both Reagan National and Washington Dulles International airports. Along with passenger and airline fees, concessions are a major source of income for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, which oversees operations at both airports.
Now, there may be some criticism of the expansion — I saw some in Facebook comments, but why should the Ali family limit themselves? Their contributions to the District and U Street in particular are wonderful and no less so if they have additional locations. I’m also on board with more places to get a half-smoke.
Ben’s co-owner Nizam Ben Ali confirms that the restaurant’s ownership has signed a lease for 1725 Wilson Blvd., which is in the shopping center that used to house Ray’s and is still home to Pho 75, Guajillo and Bean Good coffee, among others.
Opening is expected in 2014. There is a location on H Street NE also in the works, but the Rosslyn location is expected to open sooner.
Ben’s Chili Bowl also has stands at Nationals Park and FedEx Field, but not Verzion Center, though that’s only two Green Line stops from original U Street location.
Word came out today that venerable Washington D.C. landmark Ben’s Chili Bowl will have stands at FedEx Field (@dcsportsbog), the Landover, Md. home of the Washington Redskins, this season. Ben’s has been selling half-smokes at Nationals Park, home of the Washington Nationals, since it opened in 2008. That means that 2 of the 3 biggest stadia in the D.C. area will have Ben’s. The big outlier — Verizon Center, home of the Washington Capitals and Washing Wizards does not, though it is only a few stops down the Green Line from the actual Ben’s.
The one thing that Nationals Park has over every other sports venue in D.C. is the selection of food vendors, especially ones with a local connection. Yes, Ben’s Chili Bowl needs to be in Verizon Center…
Your move, Ted.
UPDATE: More details from DC Sports Bog (The Post): Ben’s Chili Bowl coming to FedEx Field. Apparently, the Redskins reached out to Ben’s when they heard that it was expanding. Another District location and one in Northern Virginia are being developed. Interesting — does Ben’s lose cache by having standalone stores other than U Street? You know, what, I don’t think I care, because a closer proximity to Ben’s half-smokes is pretty good news. I wouldn’t mind seeing stands at RFK Stadium for DC United games too.
At Saturday’s opener, Ben Olsen’s Chili Bowl t-shirts (DC Sports Bog, The Post) are being given away, so now I really wish I was going to that game (went to Sunday’s Capitals game instead after we magically found tickets) but I will make it out to RFK Stadium at least once this season to see DC United.
Ben Ali of Ben’s Chili Bowl Dies – Port Mortem, The Post Ben Ali, the 82 year old founder of Ben’s Chili Bowl, the most prominent half-smoke restaurant and Washginton D.C. institution has died. Washington is a richer place for him being here.
I expect there will be a lot more coverage over the next few days. He
Ben’s Chili Bowl Turns 50 – The Post “D.C. culinary institution Ben’s Chili Bowl turned 50 this month. Nizam Ali, son of founders Ben and Virginia, who runs the family business with his brother Kamal, will be online Monday, Aug. 25 at 11:30 a.m. ET to take your questions about the restaurant’s past, present and future.”
By far, Ben’s biggest celebrity fan is Cosby, who will serve as master of ceremonies for tonight’s Lincoln Theatre event. The comic helped propel Ben’s to the national spotlight in 1985 when he held a news conference there to talk about his No. 1 television program, “The Cosby Show.”
Cosby became a fan when he was in the Navy and stationed in Bethesda in 1958. During that time, he was a regular at jazz clubs on U Street. And he also took his soon-to-be wife, Camille, who was a student at the University of Maryland, to Ben’s on late-night dates, where he would eat as many as six half-smokes at a time. Cosby likens a Ben’s half-smoke, a plump beef and pork sausage, to a fine wine.
“You can describe it the same way a wine connoisseur would be able to tell difference between a pinot noir and a merlot,” Cosby said in a telephone interview. “When you bite into a half-smoke, the skin and the way the texture and firmness and the toppings you can get on it . . . “
His voice trailed off, as if he was caught in the memory of the taste.
Six?! The man had a stomach of steel. By the way, that is not recommended date behavior.
Oh and it looks like I will be taking Cliff there real soon — his Phillies beat the Nats for the eighth time in eleven games. The Phillies need two more victories over the Nats to clinch a Ben’s half-smoke for Cliff. The Nats need to win every remaining game against Philadelphia to win me a cheesesteak. Given that the Nats haven’t won in 13 games overall, I am not feeling too good about this one.
*The bandwidth limit was exceeded earlier this morning.