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Restaurant reviews in Tyson's and surrounding area... mostly

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Ben's Chili Bowl - Half-smokes and Chili dogs in Arlington, VA

Tel: 703-649-5255

Ben's historic credentials in Washington, D.C. are unquestionable. Its new suburb locations, however, are another story.  

Situated in a Wilson Blvd strip mall, in a place that once housed both Ray’s the Steaks and Ray’s Hellburger, Ben’s has a Washington Redskins colored interior blazen with cultural stories and photographs on the walls. The feel here is far from the urban half-smoke chili dog iconic joint that Ben's photographs project. In other words, it was waaaay too sterilized and clean in this North Arlington location. Typically, a clean, well-lit restaurant is a plus, but the spirit of that urban downtown inner-city image of Ben's was simply lacking.  

We came here for lunch on a Saturday to a mostly empty dining room and empty counter area.  Their famous menu items included their well-known half-smoke with chili, chili bowls, burgers, dogs, fries, veggie burgers, turkey dogs, potato salad, cole slaw, and homespun milkshakes complete the limited menu.  We ordered the half-smoke with chili, a turkey burger with all the fixins, cheese fries, regular fries topped with chili and a vanilla milkshake. 

The food was a disappointment. It was pretty bland and tasteless.  If not for about a quarter bottle of Pete's hot sauce available on each table to help spike the flavor, the turkey burger and half-smoke with chili were just something to chew on.  The lukewarm fries wilted after a few minutes under the heavy tasteless chili and cheese.

The bright spot of the meal was the milkshake. 

Having had to forego chili-topped items at the Nationals’ Stadium during baseball games, we were so looking forward to enjoying the messy stuff in the comfort of restaurant seating instead of worrying about splattering chili on a fellow spectator in the ballpark stands.   Bottom line…plain was better.  Ben’s chili just did not impress. 

The place did fill up pretty quick after we arrived.  The lady who took our order was cheerful and welcoming, but was not helpful in making recommendations or describing items on the menu. Insult to injury, they were out of cole slaw and potato salad that we would have been preferred, forcing us into the fries.

We would be remiss if we did not give Ben's big props for offering the options of a turkey burger, a veggie burger and even meatless chili for those who are not big meat eaters. This is particularly commendable for an eatery known for its meat-oriented menu.

We are glad that Ben's came to Northern Virginia. But without the iconic feel, the food just wasn't something we'd return for.

 Parking is at a premium at this Arlington strip mall area

 Wall decorations

 Empty dining room at lunch time on a Saturday

 If you want some ooomph in your Ben's Chili Bowl meal, this Pete's hot sauce is indispensible; We used about half a bottle on our food to just make it have some taste

 Wall collage

 Wall collage depicting the original Ben's Chili Bowl on U Street in D.C.

 Wall collage showing a photograph of former D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty accompanying President Barack Obama to the original Ben's Chili Bowl on U Street in Washington, D.C>

 Wall collage

This is our lunch - ta daaaaa...  Looks much better that it tastes

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