Ben's Chili Bowl
No trip to D.C. is complete without ordering its signature dish: the half-smoke. And while many restaurants serve it, there’s only one worthy of your order: Ben’s Chili Bowl. This popular landmark diner has been feeding the community and cultural icons since the area’s “Black Broadway” days, when jazz greats such as Miles Davis enjoyed this comfort food classic. When riots broke out after MLK’s assassination in 1968, Ben’s remained open and served both police and protestors. While the U Street Corridor has undergone an urban makeover, Ben’s has remained the same, serving their quarter-pound of half-pork/half-beef smoked sausage on a bun with mustard and onions, all smothered in spicy homemade chili sauce. The prestigious James Beard Foundation even took notice, awarding it as one of “America’s Classics.” Bring cash.
By Susan Mason, AFAR Local Expert
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History and Half Smokes
Located on U Street, Ben's Chili Bowl was in the epicenter of the riots in 1968 following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Although surrounded by violence and destruction, Ben's remained open, feeding both police and activists alike, becoming a common-ground oasis in the middle of turmoil and devastation. I stopped by and tried the famous "Half Smoke and cheese fries." Delicious. Never change, Ben's Chili Bowl!
By Jeff Bush