Tasty Tuesday–Ben’s Chili Bowl

We only ate one meal out in Washington D.C. (the first time I had eaten in a restaurant since before the beginning of the pandemic!), and Ryan found a really cool local place for us to try…Ben’s Chili Bowl:

Before I get to the food, let’s start outdoors. In 2004, D.C. had a public art project, “PandaMania” and one of the remaining statues is located at Ben’s. Seeing it brought back fond memories of our STL250 cake hunting experience!

Ben’s is over 60 years old, and inside, it looks exactly like you would expect a restaurant of its age to…an old-school diner, which I loved!

Virginia Ali and her husband Ben started the restaurant together in 1958, the same year they got married. The big picture over the diner counter is like seeing a family photo in someone’s house!

I tried the Original Chili Half-Smoke (I wasn’t brave enough to try the spicy variety!). Normally, I can kind of take or leave hot dogs…usually they’re just ok. But the half-smoke at Ben’s was really good. There was a definite snap when I bit into it, and the flavor was fantastic. Chili, mustard, and onions are also the perfect hot dog topping…almost good as a Chicago-style dog!

The art on the building is so cool (and yes, President Obama has eaten there)…it really establishes the character of the place, and visually summarizes what Ben’s website says: “Our Black community is front and center in this story and Ben’s is a perfect case study – a study in our quest of freedom and its ongoing re-definition. Ben’s Chili Bowl is proudly Black-owned, and a historic landmark in Washington, DC’s culture.”

I love finding cool local places to visit when we travel!

Markels Making Magical Memories–Day Three

Washington D.C.; 37,465 steps

Our first full day in D.C., we did pretty much everything and almost nothing. We could have stayed there a week and not seen and done all of the things we wanted to do, but we did our best to hit all the highlights, starting with a ride on the Washington Metro. I love riding trains in different cities, and I really loved the design of their stations!

We found plenty of pigeons as soon as we arrived downtown:

Our first stop was at the nation’s capital’s castle…the Smithsonian Castle. It’s a beautiful building with a lovely garden, and the workers there were very helpful in showing us where all of the various museums are located (our one big sadness was that the Air and Space Museum was closed for renovations).

From there we headed to what may be the most recognizable monument in the country, where we had a Hamilton moment…”She tells my story.”

We continued our walk down the National Mall, stopping to see the WWII Memorial, which turned out to be my favorite memorial in the city (full details in the future…stay tuned!):

Of course we also saw the Lincoln Memorial (and lots of ducklings along the way, while we played “On Your Left!”):

We visited the not-quite-complete Korean War Veterans Memorial. Maybe it’s because we watch M*A*S*H so much, but this was another favorite of mine.

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial was probably the busiest (outside of the Lincoln Memorial), and there were many flowers and notes:

There is also a separate Vietnam Women’s Memorial:

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial is even more impressive in person, and there was something especially humbling about visiting it around Juneteenth.

There is also a District memorial (the only such memorial in the city), the District of Columbia War Memorial, which recognizes those from the nation’s capital that served in WWI. Both General John J. Pershing and John Philip Sousa were present at its dedication in 1931.

The nation’s WWI Memorial (which is not fully complete) is not located on the Mall near the others, but we did stumble across it, and the statue of General Pershing, eventually:

We weren’t sure what the Eisenhower Executive Office Building was when we first saw it, but the French Second Empire architectural style is easy to identify:

I’m not going to lie…we were a little underwhelmed by the view of the White House…between the fencing and the distance the public is kept from it, it’s hard to feel like you really saw it:

Until you realize that there is a much better view from the other side! Our house is a very, very, very fine house! And we got to do the Cha Cha Slide in the street out front. I was hoping to do our favorite group dance on our trip, but I was not expecting to do it at the most famous address in America!

We also walked through Lafayette Square, where we admired the statues of Lafayette (of course), Kościuszko, von Steuben, and Rochambeau, making it a park dedicated to Europeans (two Frenchmen, a Polish general, and a Prussian), who assisted the new nation in the Revolutionary War.

We stopped to get a Philly cheesesteak of all things from a D.C. food truck…I’ve never been to Philadelphia myself, but Ryan tells me it was pretty authentic!

Then it was time to visit some Smithsonians. We started with the National Museum of American History. I was very disappointed that the gallery that houses the Ruby Slippers was being renovated, so we didn’t get to see those, but I did especially enjoy a display about the nation’s First Ladies:

Moose was interested in the section dedicated to American music:

And Chickadee was very excited to see Abraham Lincoln’s actual hat:

We also visited the National Museum of Natural History, where the main attraction was the Hope Diamond.

There were lots of other cool things to see, too (we even touched a piece of Mars!), even though the layout of the museum made it a little challenging to figure out where to go next.

We also visited the National Archive (no photography permitted), where it was a moving experience to see not only the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, but also the 1297 Magna Carta, which strangely few people seemed interested in.

Afterwards, we stopped at an ice cream truck outside the museums:

And then got on the train to grab dinner at Ben’s Chili Bowl. Full details on our meal there in the future, but it was delicious!

After eating, we hopped back on the train to return to the National Mall. Near the station, we came across another memorial. The different branches of the military have their own memorials scattered throughout the D.C. area. We didn’t see them all (and photographed even less of them), but I really thought the design of the United States Navy Memorial was cool:

We located a statue of John Paul Jones, and I continued my tradition of not being able to remember the phrase he is famous for saying (“I have not yet begun to fight!”).

I liked seeing how the evening light made the Washington Monument look as we took another lap around the reflecting pool:

We even found someone willing to take a family photo!

We stopped by the German-American Friendship Garden, which I felt a particular connection to.

Our evening walk also took us past a statue of a “hometown hero” from my childhood, Kazimierz Pulaski. I was never really clear as to why he was so popular in Illinois and especially Chicago, although I suspect the large Polish population in the area has something to do with it, but it was still cool to see someone from the Revolution so obscure to so many but so familiar to me!

The Waldorf Astoria isn’t particularly significant…I just thought it looked pretty:

Up next: A tour of the US Capitol!