Tag Archives: Ben’s Chili Bowl

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.

Ben’s Chili Bowl opening location at National Airport in 2014

Half-smoke
Ben’s Chili Bowl to land at Reagan NationalThe Post
Ben’s Chili Bowl continues to expand with a location at Washington National Airport scheduled to open in 2014.

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.

Earlier this month, Ben’s announced it was opening a Rosslyn location in 2014 as well. H Street NE is expected to get a location too, along with Nationals Park and FedEx Field.

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.

According to WTOP, National Airport will be getting several other eateries – American Tap Room, Legal Sea Foods and Pinkberry.

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Ben’s Chili Bowl to open Rosslyn location in 2014

Half-smoke
Ben’s Chili Bowl expanding to VirginiaWashington Business Journal
Iconic Washington D.C. half-smoke purveyors Ben’s Chili Bowl is paying to open a location in Rossyln, Arlington County:

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.

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Ben’s Chili Bowl to FedEx Field, already at Nationals Park. Your move, Ted Leonsis…

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.

In my list of deliverables for Ted Leonsis, one of the things I suggested was:

4. Improved food stands in Verizon Center

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.

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DC United wins with Ben Olsen’s Chili Bowl

I have already mentioned how impressed I am with DC United’s marketing push and how it really put them on my radar. Well, they did it one better yesterday, when they teamed up with Ben’s Chili Bowl. Yesterday, the landmark U Street restaurant was Ben Olsen’s Chili Bowl for the day.

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.

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More on Ben Ali, founder of Ben’s Chili Bowl


He Added Spice to Our LivesThe Post
Death of a Washington legendThe Wash. Times
Ben Ali’s Son: “We’re All OK.”CityPaper
Ben Ali, founder of Ben’s Chili Bowl, dies AP/WTOP
Ben Ali obituaries from the two D.C. broadsheets, plus the alternate tabloid and AP. The great irony of his life — he never had a half-smoke because his Muslim faith prohibits pork.

Despite Founder’s Death, It Was Business As Usual at Ben’sCityPaper
Life Goes On in Rhythm of Ben’sThe Post
It was just a little busier at Ben’s Chili Bowl yesterday — Sounds like a good tribute to me.

For much of yesterday, “Ben’s Chili Bowl” and later “Ben Ali” were trending on Twitter.

The Death of Ben Ali: What Others Had to SayCityPaper
What others are saying about Ali. What are you saying?

PREVIOUSLY
Ben Ali of Ben’s Chili Bowl dead at 82 – 10.08.2009
Fifty years of Ben’s Chili Bowl – 04.21.2008

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Ben Ali of Ben’s Chili Bowl dead at 82

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

PREVIOUSLY
Fifty years of Ben’s Chili Bowl – 04.21.2008

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Ben’s Chili Bowl at 50 chat right now

Ben’s Chili Bowl Turns 50The 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.”

PREVIOUSLY: Fifty years of Ben’s Chili Bowl

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Fifty years of Ben’s Chili Bowl

Half-smoke
Ben’s Celebrates Chili PowerThe Post
This week is the 50th anniversary of Ben’s Chili Bowl*, the venerable U Street institution. Bill Cosby loves it more than Jello pudding:

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.

More: 50 Years of Friends and ChiliThe Post

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.

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Grading Nationals Park

In 2003, ESPN Page 2 conducted an unscientific survey of all the ballparks in the major leagues. I used the same criteria to evaluate RFK Stadium in 2005 and then again after it was “re-opened” by the Lerner group when they bought the team in 2006. After three visits to the new Nationals Park, I have used those same metrics to see how it fares:

1. Access:
One Metro line stops within a block of the main entrance. Parking is scarcer than RFK, but available online and from one I have seen, readily available. There is also free parking at RFK with a shuttle to the game. All reports indicate that each of these options performs well. For me, a Metro rider, it takes me less time than traveling to RFK. 4

2. Exterior architecture:

The stadium isn’t the same brick template as almost every other new park. It blends in with the federal architecture fairly well, but doesn’t wow factor of the very best parks. The Capitol dome and Washington Monument are visible from many seats, but an office building, ironically developed by the team ownership before the ballpark site was selected, eliminates the view from many seats. Without that hindrance, there would be another point in this rating. 4

3. Interior architecture:

The blue seats are a nice departure from the green that almost every ballpark built in the last twenty years. I’m not sure about the two red features, the press box and “red porch” area, but it isn’t horrible. The structural steel is painted gray, which is kind of bland. If that were a different color, like blue or red, the park would look better.

The concourses are sufficiently wide, though getting between some parts of the stadium is difficult and requires changing levels.3.5

4. Ticket prices and availability:
Tickets are readily available. They cost more than RFK, but some of the cheapest seats have the best capitol dome views. 3.5

5. Seat comfort:
Blue plastic seats are better than yellow wooden ones. They are aimed the right direction too. Having cupholders is also a welcome change. 4.5

6. Quality of hot dogs:
The Gwantley hot dogs are tasty, but not memorable. They don’t give me heartburn like the RFK dogs did though. I prefer the half-smokes anyway. 4

7. Quality/selection of concession-stand fare:
This is one of the best parts about Nationals Park, the food. Many local/regional vendors have set up shop. Ben’s Chili Bowl half-smokes are available just about anywhere you can buy hot dogs. Five Guys has a stand, as does Hard Times Cafe and Red Hot and Blue. Gifford’s, a local chain, is the ice cream vendor. The time spent in line still leaves something to be desired, so I am docking a point.4

8. Signature concession item:
Ben’s Chili Bowl half-smokes! Philly has cheesesteaks, D.C. has half-smokes. You can get them anywhere in the park too. I haven not tried the Curly W pretzels yet, but I get the feeling they could be executed a little better. 5

9. Beer:
The beer situation is actually a step back from RFK. Good luck trying to find something other than a macrobrew without a lot of hunting. 2.5

10. Bathrooms:

There are more of them, but they are not well designed for traffic flow. I asked a few women how the are and they respnded that they had improved, but one suggested that changing tables should be in the regular bathrooms and not just the family bathrooms.3.5

11. Scoreboard:
The HD Screen is huge with clear pictures of the game, but the operation leaves something to be desired at times. This really should be a 5, but early season problems knocks off 1/2 a point. 4.5

12. Quality of public address system:
A p.a. you can understand? How unlike RFK Stadium. They don’t overdue the loud music like other sporting events though, something I did not expect. 4.5

13. Fun stuff to do besides the game:
There is a plenty to do — video games, Build-A-Bear, speed pitch, playground, etc. I’m not there for that though. 4

14. Price/selection of baseball souvenirs:
Expensive, but more expansive than RFK. Had I been able to find a newborn onesie, this would have been a 4.5. 4

15. Friendliness/helpfulness of usher stuff:
There is a concerted effort not to be like the ushers in RFK. 4

16. Trading-up factor:
New park and higher prices means trading up is harder, but also less necessary. 3

17. Knowledge of local fans:
Anybody at a Nats game the last few years has been a true fan. 4

18. Seventh-inning stretch:
The Nats Pack leads in the singing of Take Me Out to the Ballgame. Instead of playing “Heart” from Damn Yankees, they play Otis Day & The Knights Shout, a poor decision that costs a point. Chuck Brown’s “Bustin’ Loose” for home runs adds a token point. 3

19. Pre-and-postgame bar-and-restaurant scene:
There is none whatsoever, but that will change in the next couple of years in a big way. 1

20. Wild card: Racing presidents adds 4 points, one for each. The commitment to find local/regional vendors for food adds another 5. Getting the park built on schedule adds 1. Trying to do something different with the design adds 1.

TOTAL POINTS: 81.5

That is a 10.5 upgrade from 2005 RFK Stadium, tying it with Fenway Park in Boston and Safeco Field in Seattle. Within a few years, the grade should improve with the massive redevelopment of the neighborhood, statues of D.C. baseball greats around the ballpark perimeter, docks on the Anacostia River for water taxis and other boaters. Minor changes like beer selection can easily add a few points too. The park could max out close to 90 points if 20 M Street S.E. (a building ironically developed by the owners of the team) is knocked down, but I don’t see that happening anytime soon.

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