Ben's Chili Bowl

Ben's Chili Bowl

1213 U St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20009

Up until very recently, the only VIP deemed worthy of a free meal at the Ali family chili shrine was longtime devotee Bill Cosby, who made the venue a national destination when he held a press conference there in the 1980s. The latest inductee into the eat-for-free club is Barack Obama, who stopped by to inhale the must-order Chili Half-Smoke a few days before his inauguration (he paid—and added a generous tip). Invented in 1958, this signature snack comprises a smoked pork-and-beef sausage tucked into a toasty steamed bun and comes topped with mustard, onions, and (of course) spicy chili sauce.

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