For an Airport Eatery, This Just Seems Like a Very Bad Idea

Ben’s Chili Bowl is a DC institution. It’s been around for over 50 years, hosted civil rights leaders in the 1960s, and President Obama ate there the month he took the oath of office as President in 2009.

The Pelican Brief and State of Play had scenes filmed there.

It’s a tourist destination. But I’ve never been especially impressed by the food.

They’re open at National’s Park now, and they’ve just opened at National airport last month. It’s this that seems like a very bad idea.

    Ben's Chili Bowl National Airport

    Ben's Chili Bowl National Airport

    Ben's Chili Bowl National Airport

    Ben's Chili Bowl National Airport

To be sure, while I’m not a huge fan, the food is probably better than much of what passes at the airport. But it’s also about the last thing I’d want my seat opponent to eat before a flight.

Ben’s is right next to the security checkpoint for B gates hosting American and US Airways.

The only saving grace, to me, is that it’s outside security and thus won’t be feeding exclusively passengers boarding a single set of flights. That should disperse the risk.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Yawn!!

    One of the dumbest posts yet. Instead of wasting time writing something stupid like this, spend some quality time with your wife.

  2. @Ken since you do not like any of my posts, please consider spending some time on activities you enjoy more. Or consider not spending time commenting here. We will all thank you.

    And for the record, I wrote it at the airport. Right after passing by the Ben’s Chili Bowl at security.

  3. I agree that chili before a flight is a bad idea. That is up there with the airlines deciding to serve taquila in flight. It makes a lot of people crazy.

    BTW, I agree with Gary posting this. A lot of people who travel through National would want to know this. Also, you can visit it when you land so you do not have to worry as much about it’s intestinal impact.

  4. @Ken: you are supposed to take your medication BEFORE you fall out of bed and start using the computer. I know it’s the weekend, but remember what happened last time you skipped your meds…

  5. This is so random. I’ve been thinking a lot about this place because I used to work near there in ’96 and with these Ferguson riots I remembered Ben’s chili bowl had history with riots.

  6. Gary, seriously, please ban “Ken.” I am beyond tired of this idiot, who gives every appearance of being about 12 years old, clogging up the comments with his nonsense. It’s about to drive me away from your otherwise wonderful blog.

  7. Ken, lighten up…this post was a JOKE! You, know, tongue in cheek…meant to be amusing…it was not a thesis paper. I bet half of Ben’s customers make the same comments while they are actually eating there. Geez!

  8. As a potential ‘Seat Opponent’ this sounds like a great strategic way to secure an empty middle seat on a flight that isn’t sold out!

  9. They did the same thing in ATL with The Varsity, except they put it in the worst two locations. International terminal, and regional jet central

  10. @Ken,

    Just wondering, who died and made you Sheriff of the Blogoshere? No business or service need tolerate a pain in the butt customer like you. I would not tolerate you even if you were my only customer.

  11. I grew up in DC, and I’ve been to Ben’s many times. It’s not good. It’s really, really bad. The quality of food is low, and it’s not even a unique or special cuisine.

    The original location has incredibly late hours and is a fun place to stop at at 3am. Why anyone would want to consume Ben’s sober before getting on a flight is beyond me. As for the concerns about eating Ben’s before a flight, there has long been the Panda Express, which also seems like a bad preflight idea.

    One Flew South this is not…

  12. totally agree with Preston. Ben’s is drunk food. now maybe we can get a jumbo slice place in the terminal as well?

  13. I’ve never been to Ben’s. But really it sounds no worse an idea than airline catering that serves up hummus, refried beans, dal, cabbage, and other cheap but digestion-challenging meal items.

  14. Ben’s Chili Bowl is mediocre food at best. Preston and Pavel are right. The “celebrity names” who eat there have kept visitors headed over to visit the out-of-the-way original Ben’s on U Street. Best avoided. Instead, head over to a Five Guys for an awesome burger and fries.

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