My first post. I’m long overdue. You guys have no idea how many cooking/restaurant adventures haven’t made it to this point. Like Ms. Neola I have pictures and unwritten posts galore. Today I’m going with this mini-DC/NewYork trip I went on while my girlfriend was off in Ghana. First I went on a quick little road trip to our nation’s capital with my good friend Ben (fellow arteest and a co-founder of our semi-fictional high school establishment known as the Fat Boy Club). We only had about two days, and spent much of it walking around the monuments. Then my friend Chris and I went on a trip to NY to visit Thu and Danny B and provide marginal assistance with a Food Party set. Food were had. Good food.
My boss’s daughter lives in DC, so I went with two suggestions of his. The first was Ben’s Chili Bowl. The second was Five Guys Burgers and Fries.
Ben’s Chili Bowl
After a little research, I learned that Ben’s Chili Bowl is a DC institution, surviving riots, economic blight and gentrification. Visited by presidents, Bill Cosby, and many other celebrities, Ben’s still has much of the same furniture from the 60’s.
So there is definitely a cool vibe as soon as you walk in. Its crowded, the music is going from 70’s funk to Bob Marley to Motown and the smell makes your stomach implode with hungry juice. There’s a long line that at times will start to poke out of the door, and even though tables are being snatched up as soon as they are vacated, there is a homeless guy dozing off taking up a whole booth by himself, no one kicking him out. This, I guess, is reminiscent of a time from the mid 70’s to mid 80’s when that area was so bad they had one employee and people really just came to hang out. There’s a really interesting history, read more here. Now that whole area is lined with trendy bars and restaurants, and Ben’s is the lone survivor, making it a very hip place for the youths to frequent. Scanning the place you can see homeless (looking) guy, arty girl, churchy black dude, fancy lady, college kid etc. all there for some good food.
Their chili is more of a meaty sauce. Dark with a hint of smoke, it has just the right amount of spice and only a trace amount of beans (I have a tenuous relationship with beans). They put it on everything. Their hot dogs were great and the milkshake was thick and tasty. The shake actually reminded me of one I must have had as a kid because I was having a milkshake flashback (tastes like nostalgia).
Five Guys Burgers and Fries
This is actually a chain that exists along most of the East Coast. At that time (months ago), there were no Five Guys in my area, and I am always intrigued by food I can’t get in New England. I also happen to be a burger addict/connoisseur.
So here’s the thing I took away from this one. It’s pretty simple and obvious. With burgers, the only things you need to almost guarantee success are fresh ingredients. After that, you can’t really fudge it up unless you are incompetent or hate the person you’re cooking for. So, although I can say that the bacon cheeseburger was absolutely excellent, I came away understanding that any of us can create a burger this good with the proper things to work with, most specifically fresh beef. This is how one attains that flavor most of us associate with a good burger. I highly recommend Five Guys Burgers and Fries. Another cardinal rule: When there’s only one thing on the menu, you know it has to be good.
A messy appearance that belies a purity of taste. A burger is two patties. You have to get a small for one patty. My type of place. Their fries are fried in 100% peanut oil and come seasoned and regular. Get the seasoned – delicious perfection.
I’ve got to give them some style points. Their whole vibe seems centered around a theme of simplicity. Simple red and white décor, simple menu. The menu is burgers, hot dogs, fries, milkshakes, and soda. Cheese and bacon extra, toppings free. They’ve got all the free peanuts you can eat while waiting for your food, and that’s it. Makes life just seem easy.
In NY we helped (or would like to believe we helped) on some preparation for the Cave Duck episode. Then on our way back to Greenpoint we stopped at a Middle Eastern place right by the train station. I’m sorry, I honestly can’t remember the name of the place, as I was blinded by hunger, but most of you New Yorkers may already have a vague idea of where I’m talking about. This place was great. Most people were getting falafel pitas. I got lamb. And was it ever good. There was red cabbage and that delightful yogurty mayonnaise, but the most special thing was the pickles. I can honestly say I’ve never had pickles quite like that before. They were perfect with the grilled flavor of the meat. Next time I’m in NY I absolutely must revisit.
What a delicious taste combination! Chris’ plate looks great. I can’t remember what he had, but I want to go back in time and steal the pickles off his plate every time I see this. And yes, I am aware of the size discrepancy in these photos.
As far as prices go, I really don’t remember that either, but since I’m poor you can rest assured it was all reasonable.
Until next time! -Vinnie