Oh…damn you Ben’s Chili Bowl. You’re evil is what you are. My taste buds were thrilled and my waistline was terrified when I discovered that there would be a branch of the famous D.C. diner opening in Arlington, on my side of the Potomac. How would I resist the thick, spicy half-smokes smothered in Ben's chili when I no longer had close-to-impossible parking or a two-train Metro ride separating me from them?
When I visited the restaurant at 1725 Wilson Boulevard in Clarendon a few weeks ago, it was even worse than I feared:
- The store is bright and clean and welcoming, a spruced up version of its U Street forefather.
- They take credit cards. No more squinting at the ancient ATM machine at the original, cash-only Ben's OR forgoing the chili cheese fries because I don't have enough cash.
- The Arlington branch has lots of indoor and outdoor seating and you can sit wherever you'd like, unlike the bizarre hierarchy of seating that will get you charmingly yelled at if you sit at the wrong place at the original spot.
- No one yells at you in Arlington.
- The parking lot of the Colonial Village Shopping Center with its many popular restaurants can get a little crowded during prime dining hours, but there is a lot of accessible on-street parking nearby.
Worst of all, I discovered that the one-of-a-kind half smokes and the spicy, condiment-like chili were just as delectable on this side of the river. The shakes were just as spoon-standing thick and the chili-cheese fries were just as deliciously gluttonous. What have you done to me, Ben's Chili Bowl? My waistline may never forgive you.