HOME > Chowhound > Washington DC & Baltimore >


Sign for Ben's Chili Bowl to open in Rays Hell Burger's old spot

Just walked down to Rosslyn today, and passed by the old RHB spot. There's a sign stating Ben's Chili Bowl is opening soon. I didn't walk close enough to see if there was further info about what "soon" means.

I've never been to the original, but I understand much of the appeal is the history and nostalgia associated with the place. Given that, I wonder how successful a transplant version will be? Personally, I can't see myself walking from Courthouse to Rosslyn for chili. (Actually, can't really see myself walking anywhere for chili, as I see it as more of a homemade dish. Maaaaaaybe a half smoke.) It's also not in a great locale for after-hours foot traffic (possibly part of the appeal of the original as well?)

Personally, I'm still despondent about the Song Que news....

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. It's in the blog (from back in September, yet)

    They're also coming to National Airport and H Street NE. Chili and half smokes has been berry, berry good to Ben.

    1. The Song Que news is not true according to Eater DC: http://dc.eater.com/archives/2014/01/...

      1. The Ali family does not seem to realize, the food is not that great. The appeal of Ben's is the locale not the food. I can't see this or any other place (other than the ballpark) working out for them. My only hope is that they don't sink so much money into this expansion that when it fails they are forced to shutter the original.

        8 Replies
        1. re: DCRat

          I think you're underestimating the appeal of people who want a halfsmoke but don't want to go downtown.

          1. re: monkeyrotica

            We will see. I guess I live too close to U st. to judge the lure of a half smoke w/o the stuff on the wall.

              1. re: wineo1957

                The best thing I had at Weenie Beenie was the fried fish. Who knew?

                1. re: monkeyrotica

                  Killer BLT on Wheat too.

                  Of course, the cardiologists handing out their cards as you get your food may suggest a slight lack of healthfulness.

              2. re: monkeyrotica

                I think you're overestimating the appeal of greasy globs of flavorless meat on an equally tasteless slab of meat.

                1. re: nedh

                  Yeah, because nobody ever goes to Five Guys.

            1. Ben's uses water and seasonings to make their Chili, nuff said

              2 Replies
              1. re: drsmoke

                A few years ago on one of those Food Channel 'visit this local place' shows (I don't remember which), they showed them using a can of sysco chili with a bag of dried seasoning added.

                1. re: arglebargle

                  Yeah, it's pretty much the equivalent of opening a jar of Ragu and doctoring it with whatever spices you have handy. Considering the volume of customers they deal with every day, I don't see them artisanally curating their chili with free range locavore ingredients.

              2. I agree that this place will struggle. The chili and half smokes are good, but frankly, not great, especially when sober. It is too far from most of the courthouse/Clarendon nightlife to benefit from the after hours crowd. If I'm going to go out of my way for this stuff I'm going to the original.

                1. I will give it a try. I didn't think much of Ben's chili years ago, but given the lack of options, it is worth a shot. I paid $8 for a chili dog at Red Apron (wasn't bad but $8 with tax? Really?) so a chili half smoke would be welcome. I have even paid $6 for a pint of 3 Bean Chili at Mom's Organic (scornful chuckling, followed by "THIS AIN"T CHILI!") so I will try even mediocre chili and be reasonably close to satisfied. I used to eat Giant chili once a week and liked it, so I don't set the bar that high.

                  10 Replies
                  1. re: Ziv

                    The best chili in the area is at Backwoods BBQ in N. Arlington. It has beans in it, BTW. They also do a completely kick-ass set of mini-burgers and they are a good value. Just don't be tempted by the bbq.

                    1. re: Steve

                      Where is Backyard BBQ? I have googled and yelped them and they don't show up any closer than Texas or California. Too bad they don't have good bbq but I would stop by for decent chili.
                      On edit: Unreal, so I used Yahoo and they popped up top of the list. I have actually had their pulled pork and it was ok, I will stop by for their chili. I have driven by them a million times. Williamsburg Shopping center on North Sycamore if anyone else is interested. I like to support local businesses and if they have good chili, I will be supporting them fairly frequently.

                      1. re: Ziv

                        Yeah, the chopped pork is fairly tasteless. And forget about the ribs. But the chili and the min-burgers are aces.

                        1. re: Ziv

                          I saw that the sign for the entire strip center does not list the BBQ place any more. Is the BBQ place still there?

                          1. re: alkapal

                            Still there and doing a pretty good business while I was there. I have had their pulled pork sandwiches and kind of liked them. I think their coleslaw was fairly good too. We have them cater Realtor functions fairly frequently, and they seem to be a bit better than Red Hot and Blue.

                        2. re: Steve

                          Steve, I had Backyards chili and it was ok. Their pulled pork is not bad, but the chili is barely ok. They do have a fair chili dog.
                          Best chili in the area is still pretty much unclaimed. Giant has a chili soup that is better than most of the chilis I have tasted in northern Virginia. Even Ben's chili is close to Backyard BBQ's chili. And that is not a good thing.
                          Harris Teeter and MOM's are worse, but Backyard BBQ is only a bit better.

                          1. re: Ziv

                            Wow, I am shocked to hear you say that. Different strokes, I guess.

                            I suppose this means that Backyard BBQ is still there!

                            1. re: Steve

                              They are still there and doing good business. I like their pulled pork and I wish them well. I like to support locally owned businesses and they are good at what they do. I just think their chili is a bit underwhelming. It did have good consistency, and it had beans which I like. But the chili flavor was a bit light and there was no heat at all. I hotted it up but it was still only fair. I still like the watery Giant chili soup a bit better. The chili dog was actually fairly good, but my standards on chili dogs are fairly lenient! :-)
                              As long as it doesn't cost $8 with tax like Red Aprons dog, I am usually good with it.
                              But chili is like pizza, you generally like the recipes that are close to what you had when you were growing up.

                              1. re: Ziv

                                They must have changed their chili, or something went wrong, because it's been seriously spicy for me.

                        3. re: Ziv

                          Having to transact some business at the Wilson building was the reason for my last visit to Ben's (that and getting a parking space with time on the meter right in front of Ben's)

                          Let's just say that the desiccated and charred half smoke plus the glop faintly reminiscent to chili gave me even more reasons to hate doing business with DC Government,