Ben’s Chili Bowl: best chili in Washington DC

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While in Washington DC, we wanted to try some popular American food that we do not have back in South Africa. One of the free guidebooks from the Capitol Inn hotel recommended Ben’s Chilli Bowl at it’s original U Street location. Ben’s Chili Bowl was started over 50 years ago in 1958, and they still serve the same original recipe chilli and is considered to serve the best chilli bowl in Washington DC. Who can resist this! In fact, Ben’s Chilli Bowl is one landmark on the African American Heritage Trail in Washington.


Getting to the original Ben’s Chilli Bowl in Washington DC

We visited Ben’s Chilli Bowl on a hot summer’s day in July. Although we were there after the regular lunch hours, it was busy with a long, long line for take-outs. Even the tables for sit-down customers in the main eating area and the dining area in the back were packed! It was evident that Ben’s Chilli Bowl still serves the best chilli bowl in Washington DC!


We were lucky to find seats at the main counter just after entering – a good sign!

We were helped quite quickly and was served ice water immediately, which was so welcoming since it had been so hot outside.

Looking for Washington DC accommodation? 

Try the Capitol Hill Hotel where we stayed - we loved staying there and can definitely 
recommend it!

If you want to stay closer to Ben's Chilli Bowl, try the following hotels:

* DC Apt in Shaw Area - Walk to Metro, Shops and Cafes (

* U Street Capsule Hostel ( | U Street Hostel ( | 
U Street Capsule Hotel (Agoda)

* LYRIC | The Liz DC Boutique Suites (

* Sojourn the 13th Street Flats (AirBnB)

* Landing | A Place to Recreate and Rejuvenate (AirBnB)

How does one choose the best chilli bowl in Washington DC?

We simply could not decide what to eat, but the waitress was very helpful in explaining what the most popular dishes were and what each comprised and eventually we placed our order. It took a while for the food to be prepared, but this gave us time to watch the comings and goings of the customers and also study the photos on the walls – it is all part of the Ben’s Chilli Bowl experience!

By the time our food came, we were starving! Lucky the portion sizes were quite large!


We had the Original Chilli Half-Smoke dogs which came with potato chips, Chilli Con Carne and Chilli cheese fries.


The portions were so big that we could not finish it all. We also had some of their homemade pink lemonade which was delicious.


Just sitting in the restaurant was quite an experience. The ambience was great with a jukebox playing tunes and pictures of Bill Cosby, Barrack Obama everywhere.


We found the service excellent and friendly, but if you don’t have a lot of time, this is not the place for quick food. Prices were reasonable considering the portion sizes. There is an ATM in the store as cash is not accepted.

Some tours to try in Washington:

Washington DC Hop on hop off sightseeing bus

Washington DC Haunted History Ghost Tour

Washingtoon DC Museum of the Bible - Early Admission Ticket
Bens chilli bowl for the best chilli bowl in Washington DC

We were stuffed by the time we walked out of there. It was an experience I can recommend whole-heartedly!

Read our other posts about our visit to Washington:

Exploring the National Mall in Washington DC

Staying at the Capitol Hill Hotel

Have you been to Ben’s Chilli Bowl in Washington DC? Did you enjoy it? If you have never been there, do you like chilli?

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