Ben’s Chili Bowl has been a Washington DC landmark forover 50 years. I found out about it from watching No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain on the Travel Channel. This place is famous for chili half-smoke. A half-smoke is a large sausage dog (pork and beef) that is grilled. I chose the vegetarian chili because I don’t like regular chili. My order confused the server because he asked me if I wanted a turkey dog instead. He was probably wondering “Who orders a meaty half-smoke and then smothers it in vegetarian chili?” Answer: I do.
When we arrived at Ben’s Chili Bowl, the line was almost out the door. We were not the only ones looking to sample the famous food. On the wall, there were pictures of the celebrities and dignitaries who have also visited. President Obama and Bill Cosby (he likes the half-smoke) have been there.
As I waited in line, I hoped it was all that I expected it to be, especially since a chili half-smoke was $5.45. Dave ordered a regular chili dog for $3.99. I did not know that they give potato chips with the chili dogs, so I ordered a side of fries also. All the booths and tables were occupied, and I thought we would have to stand and eat. But at the last minute, a family vacated a booth and we were able to sit.
Sitting down, I was undecided how to approach this massive chili half-smoke. Opening wide, I bit into it. There was a snap as if the sausage casing had been perforated, breaking perfectly with my bite (I hate it when the casing does not break cleanly). The veg chili was so hearty and delicious. I thought that there was meat in it, but on further inspections I could see the beans.
This was the best chili sausage dog EVER.
Dave asked if I would have to eat at Ben’s every time we go to DC. I had to admit yes. Suddenly the $5.45 did not seem expensive. This was not a jacked-up price to gouge tourist who want to visit a DC landmark. This was a small price to pay for sausage dog perfection.
Overall: HIGHLY RECOMMEND. The half-smoke is so filling that you might not be able to eat all your fries. I will forgo the fries next time and snack on the chips that come with the half-smoke order.