Last weekend I was in Washington, D.C. for a conference. David had family visiting, so I went solo. Traveling alone is one of those things I like to do. I like having quality “me time,” and in general, it’s fun being able to do whatever you want to do without worrying about your traveling companion/s. One night in DC, around midnight, I ended up bringing a quarter chicken, plantains, beans, and a pupusa back to my hotel room. Completely awesome. Give me freedom and I eat chicken and pupusas. The downside, however, is that you have to be more alert when traveling alone. Unfortunately, there are just too many crazies out there looking to take advantage of certain situations. Where am I going with this? Well, last weekend, on the way to Ben’s Chili Bowl, I had the misfortune of being confronted with a premature half-smoke on the train.
It was about 6pm, not too late, but dark out, and I was on the Yellow line going to U Street for a chili dog. The car was pretty empty, and I was sitting near the front, facing the front of the train. A man came by, and strangely decided to stand right by me even though there were plenty of available seats. I thought this was odd, but I let it go. Then out of the corner of my eye, I saw him reach down to his pants. Perhaps he’s just scratching I thought. Just to make sure though, I turned my head to look, and he was nonchalantly standing there with his penis out and at attention. Now I grew up in New York my entire life, and I’ve seen a lot of things, but a flasher (a non-homeless one), no. I immediately got up, and changed my seat. When the train stopped, I immediately jumped out and took a photo of him (seen standing in the picture) from the platform.
At the station, I informed an agent what happened, and she called the police, but after waiting god knows how long, I left my number and asked her to have them call me. They never did. Thank you DC police for making me feel so safe. The underground chase at the next station for the perp never happened.
I was in a state of shock, but I still went to Ben’s. After all, you can’t have weirdos dictating your life. Ben’s was packed when I got there, but fortunately, I got a seat at the counter when a couple got up to leave. If you happen to see an empty stool, grab it. They have counter service. I ordered the classic Chili Half-Smoke ($5.20), a quarter pound half pork/half beef sausage in a natural casing grilled and served on a steamed bun with mustard, onions, and housemade chili.
If you haven’t had a half-smoke before, it tastes like a cross between a hot dog and a kielbasa. The half-smokes at Ben’s are especially good because they’re grilled so the sausages have a real snap when you bite into them. The meat chili also adds another dimension. It’s a bit salty, but it had a slight hint of earthy curry that I liked. Ben, the original owner (the restaurant is now owned by his two sons), was Trinidadian, and it comes across in the chili.
As for the famous sign, there’s a new sign at Ben’s. Before they had a sign that said Bill Cosby and the Obama family were the only ones to eat for free. Now the sign says, “WHO EATS FREE AT BEN’S, BILL COSBY, MICHELLE, MALIA & SASHA OBAMA, NOT PRESIDENT OBAMA (CAUSE BILL COSBY SAID SO!!!” Very cute.
Overall, Ben’s Chili is pretty cool if you don’t mind the crowds. The servers are friendly, hip hop is blasting in the front, and the half-smokes are tasty. It’s a perfect late night stop after a few drinks. Just be wary of freaks who don’t know better to keep their half-smokes in their pants.