Despite the combined DC-living experience between my wife and I of 36 years (most of that experience being hers), somehow neither of us had actually ever tried Ben’s Chili Bowl. Ben’s is sort of DC’s version of a trademark junk food—our Philly cheesesteak; our Chicago deep-dish pizza; our Baltimore crabs, I guess one could say. Well, this weekend, we found ourselves at a Nationals game, and decided to give the classic half-smoke a roll.
The verdict? Not bad. A little spicy, lots of flavor… overall it seemed like a decent quality dog. Still, I left the experience a bit underwhelmed. I’ve had some pretty badass hot dogs in my time, and this was definitely up there. But it was still a hot dog.
Will DC ever have a junk food that people will come here for? I guess only time will tell. A city’s food reflects its personality. DC, I guess, is known for being somewhat… safe? political? and that’s how this half-smoke feels. It’s a decent piece of meat and cheese, and that’s about it. Something everyone can enjoy and no one will be offended by. In other words, it’s good enough for government. You enjoy it but you don’t crave it. Nothing too crazy. The “man” would approve.
Ben’s is old—like, from the 1950s old. And you’ve got to respect a landmark like that. Still, DC searches for a food identity. In more recent times, there has been a spate of ramen shops opening up around town, a few of which I have tried, and, while I am glad to see them, I think it’s safe to say that the west coast (much less Japan) is not going to lose sleep over our ramen. And we’ve got food trucks, I suppose… but I just haven’t felt like we have “a thing” yet.
Anyway, did we miss the point? Is the real Ben’s (outside the park) any different? Feel free to tell me where I’m wrong here, DC folk. Maybe it will grow on me after a time. Is this DC’s “thing?”
So, that was Ben’s. One thing that cheered me up this week though: the local booze store has stocked about 700 million bottles of Pumking, clearly the best fall seasonal beer.
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