1213 U St NW, Washington, DC, United States
As much a destination as a place to eat, Ben's Chili Bowl remains one of the few (non-governmental) things in DC that remains unchanged since the 1950s. The food is good – standard diner breakfast items in the mornings plus home-made chili, chili-cheese fries, burgers, coleslaw, veggie burgers, shakes and half-smokes (the fantastic DC and Baltimore local food that lives somewhere between sausage and hotdog). The place oozes history. Ben's opened on U Street in 1958 and fed luminaries such as Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Miles Davis and Martin Luther King Jr. Ten years later riots raged through DC after the assassination of King, closing much of the city. U Street was particularly hard hit. Like a beacon on rocky shores, Ben's was able to stay open past curfew and feed the community leaders, firefighters and police who worked to save the neighborhood. Since that time Ben's Chili Bowl has served a community gathering place as the city contracted and then grew again. Ben's Chili Bowl is still Ben's after fifty years. The stools, long counter, and bright booths are all original, and so is the experience. Parking during the weekdays is not too bad (two hour limit for non-neighborhood residents), but weekends and evenings are difficult. Ben's is directly across the street from the U Street/African American Civil War Memorial/Cardozo station (Green/Yellow lines). Exit via 13th street.