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A Long Time Coming at Ben’s Chili Bowl

Always a line...
Always a line…

Some cities have restaurants that have been around since the beginning of forever. In Washington, D.C., that place is Ben’s Chili Bowl, which I believe has been serving up chili since the Lincoln presidency. No? Well Eisenhower is close enough. Our current POTUS has paid the place a visit at least once and according to a sign is one of only two people (aside from his family) that eats free. The other, obviously, is Bill Cosby.

My trip to Ben’s Chili Bowl started out ominously. After waiting in line for more than 30 minutes and marveling at the inefficiency (perhaps some spillover from congress?), I had to run to a show down the street before ordering. Upon my return, however, I snagged a spot at the counter and was (at least in Ben’s Chili Bowl time) quickly waited upon.

I ordered myself a Chili Half-Smoke, which is a quarter pound of pork/beef sausage topped with chili, onions and mustard. I also had some chili cheese fries because it would have been stupid not to.

A basket of joy.
A basket of joy.

The food could have come faster. Surely at any Coney Island in the Detroit area it would have, but when it did come it was a beauty. The Half-Smoke was spilling over with chili (and no onions because you know how I roll) and had a delicious kick to it. In fact, it was pretty similar to Detroit-style chili, without the onions, with what I believe was cumin and absolutely no beans to be found. The big difference was the half-smoke, which has some nice and crispy skin with a delicious snap. The bun held up well, but rightly only existed as an attempt to keep things clean.

The chili cheese fries were exactly what they should have been. Doused in a cheese sauce in addition to the chili, the fries held up pretty well. Plus, the cheese sauce seemed unique in some sense, as opposed to being some ordinary nacho-esque sauce.

Undoubtedly this was a tasty meal that lived up to the hype. The only problem was the wait. Hype is one thing to live up to, but lines are another thing entirely. If Ben’s Chili Bowl can get their shit together and pump out tasty chili at a greater speed, I would be eager to get back to it. As it stands now, I’ll probably only make my way back if the moment is right.