Ben’s Chili Bowl

1213 U Street, Washington D.C.

No trip to D.C. is complete without ordering the district’s signature dish, the half-smoke. And while many restaurants serve it, there’s only one worthy of your order: Ben’s Chili Bowl. The 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 Martin Luther King’s assassination in 1968, Ben’s remained open and served both police and protesters. While the U Street Corridor has undergone an urban makeover, Ben’s has remained the same, serving its 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, deeming it one of “America’s Classics.” Bring cash and come hungry.

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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!

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