Friday, July 11, 2014

Off Day: Ben's Chili Bowl

After spending the week with dalliances in the South Atlantic League in the Carolinas, I pointed my trusty steed south and buckled up for the 10 hour drive into the Sunshine State. I’ll spend the next week knocking out 2 of the remaining 3 MLB teams I have yet to visit. I know, a week is a long time to catch two teams in the same state; but there is this thing called the All-Star break. The Florida State League will be my saviour by allowing me to catch some Single A ball while waiting for the festivities in Minneapolis to wrap up.  Since I had no game to write about today, keeping in tradition of presenting some of the more iconic or unique non-baseball hot dog emporiums, a few weeks ago I was in Washington DC and had the privilege of downing a dog in Ben’s Chili Bowl.

In what was once a silent movie house on U Street, Ben and Virginia Ali converted the building into a place to grab a bite in the form a a delicious dog. Serving them up since 1958 Ben’s has become THE place to get your tubular meat fix in the Capital City. The walls are adorned with well-known personalities who have dined in the modest wiener venue. From presidents to actors, everyone loves a good dog and Ben has not disappointed them.

I didn’t find this place by chance. I was turned on to it by the person I was meeting for lunch; Eric Mittenthal. If there is a best place in DC to have a dog Eric would know. Not only does he work there, he is also the Vice President of Public Affairs for the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council (NHDSC).  Eric helped me devise my rating system and has provided some great insight into the the hot dog industry. The NHDSC is sort of the Mecca for hot dog lovers. They know all and tell all about all things meaty and tubular. If you want to know ANYTHING about hot dogs, check out their website.

Eric and I
It turns out that, as suspected, Eric knows his dogs. I had the Bill Cosby (named after that hot dog version’s biggest fan) and really enjoyed the smokie smothered in chili. It was a real treat that both tickles the tummy and gives you a slap in the face at the same. The venue is far from fancy, and looks much like it did when it first opened, which is perhaps part of what makes it so cozy and keeps the customer coming back. We were greeted and had a nice conversation with members of the Ali family. They take the reputation of their product seriously and ensure Ben’s keeps pumping out quality eats. If in Washington DC, it is a MUST to visit Ben’s Chili Bowl on U Street.

What’s that you say? Only in town for the baseball game? I’d be hard pressed to choose between the two, but you don’t have to. Ben’s now has a stand at the Washington National’s Ballpark. THAT is a winning combo. If you can’t get to Ben’s downtown, you absolutely, positively have to munch one while watching a Nats game. And if you don’t, either I or Bill Cosby will kick your ass.

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