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Ben's Chili Bowl vs Amsterdam Falafel for group of 12 guys on Jan 4. Or ...Corduroy? :o)

I know what you're thinking... why put Corduroy next to these other 2 potential picks when it's not in the same category? Here's the scoop.

We do a "Guy's Night Out" once a month the first Thursday. It's usually 6-14 guys depending on the pick. Last night did Ray's The Classics in SS, MD and it was fantastic and 11 of us showed up. Everyone was happy and the food and price were great for the type of food. The put us in the party room in the back and it was perfect. In the past we've done Roy's Place (cheap eats), Kinkeads, Vidalia, Pizza Paradiso, Oya, Zengo, Teaism, LaAuberge Francois, Cafe Milano, Cafe LaRouche, Obrycki's & Louisianna (both in Baltimore), Cali's Court in Baltimore, Zatinya, Zola's, Cafe Lepic, Heritage India, Rocklands DC, etc. ad nauseum.

We've been doing these for 10 years now. Some are moderately priced, some are expensive. We've done alot of expensive ones lately and was told to TRY to pick a moderate place if possible, but it's not a requirement. I wanted to pick Corduroy as I've been wanting to try it, but thought I'd try to find a cheap eat that could fit all of us, even if it's 6 to a table and 6 to another.

I've eaten at Ben's Chili Bowl once and thought it was fun, but the food was only fair. It WOULD be cheap though. I've walked past Amsterdam Falefel and I LOVE falafel but heard in reviews here that the pita's aren't that large to fit stuff into and they fall apart quickly. Then there's the "no basket" thing. Did they correct that yet? Has the situation improved there? My wife thought it would be too small to drag in a group of 12 people.

Any other thoughts? Or just say screw it and pick Corduroy. At least with Corduroy it would be a nice sit down meal where we could all chat, relax, and most likely be at the same table. Or, maybe somewhere else moderately priced, so not as cheap as Ben's but not as expensive as say Black's Bar and Grill. It could be anywhere around the Beltway but be fun and different. We've done N. Virginia a few times but we all live in MD or DC so that's preferred. We usually meet at 730pm, 8pm or 830pm at the specific restaurant if that changes anything.

Thanks in advance,
Steve R
Silver Spring, MD

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  1. Amsterdam Falafel is amazing. But you're lucky to get a seat for two people, much less six or twelve. Ben's - better idea, even if the food isn't great.

    But I don't think either has alcohol. Is that important?

    How about Jaleo in Bethesda, Jackie's in Silver Spring, Bob's Shabu-Shabu in Rockville?

    1. If you are willing and able to go to Ben's Chili Bowl, then you should choose Pyramids instead. Wonderful, dirt cheap Moroccan food on the corner of 6th and Florida. Just do a search for recs on this board. For a group of twelve you would have to call ahead as that is near the capacity of the place. The phone number is within a thread entitled "Pyramid Report." I would specifically ask for them to make you a seafood b'stilla to start with.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Steve

        Thanks Steve. I'll look into Pyramids then. I think I've changed my mind and sitting at one table WOULD kind of make the night, so that leaves out Ben's and Amsterdam Falafel.

        Steve R

      2. Put on your list for now or later but SOON - AV Ristorante Italiano (607 NY Ave, NW)
        The old classic red sauce Italian restaurant downtown with the yard full of life-sized statues will close within a year to make space for development. It's been a favorite for years and people either adore it or bash it. But go try the white pizza and some of the house specials.

        I'm not sure you can make an evening of Ben's. It's a great place to hit on the way home from a late night at work or meetings or after a bunch of parties. Or just a meal any time of day. But as the centerpiece of an evening with friends? Maybe not. I always include it in my Classic Washington Tour however because of its history.

        2 Replies
        1. re: MakingSense

          I'll second AV. Just get a bunch of dishes and a couple bottles of the house red.

          1. re: MakingSense

            Making sense: Good suggestion, but we've actually done AV Ristorante twice already in our 10 years of doing this! They don't want to do it again, though.
            Thanks,
            Steve R

          2. I would think Ben's is another place that might be tough to get seating for that many people and I'm pretty sure Ben's doesn't sell booze - I say this because many of the places you listed do and that's sometimes a part of guys night out.

            How about doing Chinese or Thai? You could hit Full Kee in DC or maybe check the board for Rockville/SS/Wheaton recs. You could get a nice big table, share a bunch of different items and it would probably be moderately priced.

            1 Reply
            1. re: MarkF

              Thanks for the info on Ben's. I thought that back room could accommodate a bunch of people but maybe not. We can't do a Chinese place as one member hates Chinese food. Whatcha gonna do... no accounting for taste. Thai is a possibility, we did it once in Old Town. No one will go near Ruan Thai after I told them it's supposd to be so good last night. They all said it looks scary from the outside and totally divey. I told them about Chowhounds and that folks here love it (We live 10 min away!) but no one was that adventurous. One gent said he walked by once and it smelled ghastly from the outside.

              We all don't drink by the way, so the whole drinking thing is of no importance.

              Steve R

            2. I think Ben's has really gross food. The last (and only) time I went there, the chili tasted like it had sand in it. Sure, it's historical and an institution, but the food...bad! I really like Ams Falafel. Too small for that many people though. The guy who owns it is opening a hotdog joint, right? When does that open?

              As for Thai, Regent is really good (on 18th and Florida) and what about the Islander on U street?

              1 Reply
              1. re: vb_lady

                Thx vb_lady. I'll check into those Thai places, though it's never been high on anyone's list from our group. All the Thai places in Rockville where we usually eat are mediocre, so I'm guessing that's where they go their negative disposition on it.

                Steve R