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Eating DC Beyond Ben's Chili Bowl


Holly Moore
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My plan to hit Ben's Chili Bowl on the way to ole Miss last month got canceled when I ended up having to fly. But this weekend is wide open, the Eagles aren't playing until Monday night, and despite the fact I live two hours away, there is not a single DC eatery on my site. Time to remedy that oversight.

Am heading down tomorrow for lunch at Ben's. But then what? Not sure if I'll stay over through Monday AM, but at least will be there through Sunday afternoon.

That means one or two breakfasts, along with tracking down some hamburgers, hot dogs and any other grease stain worthy eating there is in and around DC. I tend not to limit myself to the traditional three meals a day on these forays. Would like to amass a good representation.

Any ideas?

BTW, CitySearch.Com, my usual starting off point when hitting metro areas, has failed me in DC. They're evidently tied in with the Post, resulting in what for me is a totally unworkable format. No "Best of" lists. No dining out categories such as "Hot Dogs," "Hamburgers," or "French Fries." What's up with that?

Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

HollyEats.Com

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i am a very big fan of cashion's eat place for sunday brunch.

good atmosphere, good coffee, excellent pastry basket, and since i just got back from greece, i am looking forward to trying their greek yoghurt with honey and granola.

also adams morgan is a cool place to be if you are coming from out of town.

Nothing quite like a meal with my beautiful wife.

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Holly, Go to Colorado Kitchen and think about Carman's. Two very different, yet strikingly similar, places. Well worth the trip.

Food is a convenient way for ordinary people to experience extraordinary pleasure, to live it up a bit.

-- William Grimes

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You may want to consider Florida Avenue Grill. I've not had breakfast there but once upon a time it was legendary. I did go once for fried chicken and collards--not the best representation of either I've ever had, but the place has enough local color to make up for it.

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Thanks for the suggestions so far, but pretty slim pickin's burger and dog wise. Can't believe there is such a dirth of such all American fare in the nation's capital.

Question on Five Guys. I'm thinking I remember that their original location is in Georgetown. If not, where?

Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

HollyEats.Com

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Thanks for the suggestions so far, but pretty slim pickin's burger and dog wise.  Can't believe there is such a dirth of such all American fare in the nation's capital.

Question on Five Guys.  I'm thinking I remember that their original location is in Georgetown.  If not, where?

Old Town Alexandria, VA, I think. It's just a burger, though. I think it's really overrated, and it's just the old-school thing that appeals to people. Clickety

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Palena has an excellent dog and an even better burger, but this is a fine dining restaurant and not a greasy neighborhood joint. They just happen to serve this excellent stuff in their front room ("cafe").

Most hot dogs in DC come from nondescript carts downtown or 7-11 in suburbia. (Ick.)

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Most hot dogs in DC come from nondescript carts downtown or 7-11 in suburbia. (Ick.)

Johnny's for the lunchtime dog?

Re: 7-11, I've seen people buy hot dogs (and even worse, the "taquitos") at the 17th and R one.

Someone please let me out of this glass house

Edited by eunny jang (log)
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Thanks for the suggestions so far, but pretty slim pickin's burger and dog wise.  Can't believe there is such a dirth of such all American fare in the nation's capital.

Question on Five Guys.  I'm thinking I remember that their original location is in Georgetown.  If not, where?

Holly what are you looking for, exactly?

If you want really GOOD burgers and dogs, you're going to eat them in better environs, and pay for them - there are no decrepit shacks within the city limits, unless you want to hit roach-infested stir-fry.

Good and pricey: Palena front room (burgers and dogs), Matchbox (burgers), Firefly (burgers), Colorado Kitchen (burgers), Spy Museum (dogs), Johnny's Half Shell (dogs)

Bad and cheap: Five Guys (burgers), Ben's Chili Bowl (dogs), Florida Avenue Grill (burgers and dogs I think), Weenie Beanie (dogs)

Better still, go to Jerry's Crab House in Lanham Saturday afternoon and get a Crab Bombe.

Let me know via PM if I can call-ahead and/or customize this trip for you - I can help. Colorado Kitchen is what you're looking for, I suspect, but call ahead and find out when they're serving burgers, and if you don't get the burger, get the meatloaf. Cheers,

Rocks.

Edit: I just looked at HollyEats.Com - go to Colorado Kitchen, Jerry's Crab House and to the Five Guys in Alexandria (Five Guys was good, and may still be, depending on when you hit it). You don't want tacos, right? If you do, then that's a whole 'nother shootin' match. And if you go down that slippery slope, then it's but a short hop over into Bolivian saltenas (no n-yeh on this keyboard!).

Edited by DonRocks (log)
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Holly--

You could go another route. Instead of searching for the typical stuff you usually go after, in DC, which really doesn't have it-- maybe instead you might try what IS good and cheap in DC. Or VA. I'm thinking about the wonderful inexpensive Vietnamese joints in Eden Center, and the Salvadorean places up and down Columbia Pike. It's like getting the lobster roll rather than pizza in Maine, where the pizza is lousy but the lobster fresh. Just an idea!

Food is a convenient way for ordinary people to experience extraordinary pleasure, to live it up a bit.

-- William Grimes

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Holly--

You could go another route. Instead of searching for the typical stuff you usually go after, in DC, which really doesn't have it-- maybe instead you might try what IS good and cheap in DC. Or VA. I'm thinking about the wonderful inexpensive Vietnamese joints in Eden Center, and the Salvadorean places up and down Columbia Pike. It's like getting the lobster roll rather than pizza in Maine, where the pizza is lousy but the lobster fresh. Just an idea!

Let's send him to China Star in Fairfax for Fish in Sour Mustard, and carefully map his route back to the hotel to keep him within a stone's throw of a bathroom, God help him if he hits rush-hour traffic. :laugh:

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I think the problem here is that much as the idea of a slice-of-America old-timers-playing-dominos-and-trading-war-stories greasy-spoon local-legend mom-and-pop out-of-the-way sandwich shop or diner or rib shack or soda fountain appeals to all of us, many of them just aren't very good. It's like going to a famous dive bar and finding that not does it suck all on its own, but the bulk of its business now comes from yuppies like me looking for a "dive experience".

DC has 'em, but I don't think they're in the "justly-famous-local-hole-in-the-wall-with-great-food" category that may exist in other cities. They just kind of exist, coasting along on wheels slicked by the off-tasting grease and cracked Formica that fool people into thinking they must be authentic and therefore really good.

Edited by eunny jang (log)
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Make a side trip out to Charles county MD for some ribs!?!?!

I second (third, fourth?) the Colorado Kitchen recommendation. I'll do the same with 5 Guys (not that they're in the same category)-- a trip down to Old Town is worth the hike for an out of towner. The location is only about 5 blocks from King Street Metro station and also close to the original location of Hard Times Chili. I dig a Texas 5-way and a Lone Star there.

I'd be happy to come along for the ride, time permitting. And perhaps there are other local eGullet-types who would be curious to see what a foreign eGullet-type looks like. :blink:

peak performance is predicated on proper pan preparation...

-- A.B.

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to be a slight merger, go to mount pleasant street, just past columbia road and 16th street intersection, go to the pupersia (sorry forget the name) just opposite the bank of america. have two with pork y queso, go to the opposite side of the street and drink in a true dc institution: the raven. they serve popcorn and pretzels 'cos to have a liquor license in dc, one must provide mild collations to bibulous dipsomaniacs who are sickened of the gw/yupp/ness of adams morgan.

you will not be disappointed, nor will you find true pupuas in that great sour apple (so i've heard from friends) as salvadorans tend not to inhabit those tragic qunitential effulgent boroughs, full of sound and fury signifying nothing but an unsan-salvadoran population.

ask around if you doubt.

there is no love sincerer than the love of food

- george bernard shaw

i feel like love is in the kitchen with a culinary eye, think she's making something special and i'm smart enough to try

- interpol

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Fried oysters, steamed shrimp, and homemade caramel cake from Maine Avenue Seafood at the waterfront fish market is the best down-home greasy spoon DC meal in my book.

Also Five Guys is worth it - they have new locations at Howard U, Gallery Place, and Georgetown.

Hot dog wise - the half smokes at Eastern Market definitely do Washington proud.

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As I stated in a previous posting you started, Holly, DC is not a sandwich town. That said, you should obviously visit Ben's, but do not be surprised if you are underwhelmed.

Though I've only been to Five Guys a couple of times, I thought they make a good burger.

Try the Market Lunch in the Eastern Market for breakfast on the weekend. Eastern Market is a nice place to visit this time of year. Imagine a smaller Lexington Market with much, much more going on outside the market and its environs.

Obviously, Charles County for ribs, but you should not have to drive that far to get good eats.

Good luck.

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Make a side trip out to Charles county MD for some ribs!?!?!

I second (third, fourth?) the Colorado Kitchen recommendation. I'll do the same with 5 Guys (not that they're in the same category)-- a trip down to Old Town is worth the hike for an out of towner. The location is only about 5 blocks from King Street Metro station and also close to the original location of Hard Times Chili. I dig a Texas 5-way and a Lone Star there.

I'd be happy to come along for the ride, time permitting. And perhaps there are other local eGullet-types who would be curious to see what a foreign eGullet-type looks like.  :blink:

Five Guys for chili is a good call too, especially as it gets colder. Five Guys should be on your websitie.

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to be a slight merger, go to mount pleasant street, just past columbia road and 16th street intersection, go to the pupersia (sorry forget the name) just opposite the bank of america. have two with pork y queso, go to the opposite side of the street and drink in a true dc institution: the raven.  they serve popcorn and pretzels 'cos to have a liquor license in dc, one must provide mild collations to bibulous dipsomaniacs who are sickened of the gw/yupp/ness of adams morgan.

you will not be disappointed, nor will you find true pupuas in that great sour apple (so i've heard from friends) as salvadorans tend not to inhabit those tragic qunitential effulgent boroughs, full of sound and fury signifying nothing but an unsan-salvadoran population.

ask around if you doubt.

Holly -- if you decide to go pupusa-hunting in Mt. Pleasant, PM me and I'll show you around the 'hood. You can check out the weird Vietnamese snack-foods, too.

Do not eat at the Raven. Not even the popcorn.

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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to be a slight merger, go to mount pleasant street, just past columbia road and 16th street intersection, go to the pupersia (sorry forget the name) just opposite the bank of america. have two with pork y queso, go to the opposite side of the street and drink in a true dc institution: the raven.  they serve popcorn and pretzels 'cos to have a liquor license in dc, one must provide mild collations to bibulous dipsomaniacs who are sickened of the gw/yupp/ness of adams morgan.

you will not be disappointed, nor will you find true pupuas in that great sour apple (so i've heard from friends) as salvadorans tend not to inhabit those tragic qunitential effulgent boroughs, full of sound and fury signifying nothing but an unsan-salvadoran population.

ask around if you doubt.

Holly -- if you decide to go pupusa-hunting in Mt. Pleasant, PM me and I'll show you around the 'hood. You can check out the weird Vietnamese snack-foods, too.

Do not eat at the Raven. Not even the popcorn.

I've always thought ben's to be vastly overrated, btw, though their chili dogs did stop my wife's premature labor one November midnight.

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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I'd be happy to come along for the ride, time permitting. And perhaps there are other local eGullet-types who would be curious to see what a foreign eGullet-type looks like.  :blink:

As long as Holly brings the necessary papers and passport he should do fine. Although do we really want just Al representing us :wink:

Fried oysters, steamed shrimp, and homemade caramel cake from Maine Avenue Seafood at the waterfront fish market is the best down-home greasy spoon DC meal in my book.

Hot dog wise - the half smokes at Eastern Market definitely do Washington proud.

I second both of these recommendations. Market lunch at the Eastern Market is the best brunch in town. Make sure to check out the blueberry pancakes. You'll have to come back in the summer though, to try the crabcakes.

If you can't get there early enough for Market Lunch the meat counter diagonally across sells halfsmokes and hot dogs all day.

It's only fair to warn you though, if you walk into EM on a Sunday wearing anything green, let alone the green of some bird, you could be in for it. It is a true Red and Gold kind of place.

Puchina is right. Maine Avenue is as greasy as it gets. I'd also suggest a plate or two of oysters although they probably aren't from around here. Keep in mind that at this time of year it is car eating since the market is all outdoors. That is unless you like picnicing in 40 degree weather.

The two aren't far from each other either, about a 15 minute drive. Not that you need any more help but if you need to directions you know how to find me. If you came a week ago we could have shown you the rocket launchers as well, but that's another story.

Edited by hillvalley (log)

True Heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic.

It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost,

but the urge to serve others at whatever cost. -Arthur Ashe

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