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Obama Visits Ben's Chili Bowl

Obama shakes hands with worker Bria Hillard at Ben's Chili Bowl Saturday. (Linda Davidson/Washington Post)

For years, a sign at U Street's landmark Ben's Chili Bowl carried this message:

"Who eats free at Ben's: Bill Cosby. No one else."

During the 2008 race, they changed it: "Who eats free at Ben's: Bill Cosby. The Obama Family." And today, the president-elect finally investigated the offer.

Barack Obama arrived at the fast-food joint with D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty shortly before 1 p.m.. He posed with diners and staff, then returned to the counter to collect his order: a chili half smoke and sweet tea, plus cheese fries and water for the mayor. They dined together at a two-person table.

Asked by a member of the traveling press pool about the signficance of his visit, Obama said, "it means I'm going to get a hot dog."

And as for Ben's generous offer. . . As promised, they didn't try to charge him. Obama handed over a $20 bill anyway for what would have been a roughly $12 meal, reports our colleague N.C. Aizenman. Did he want change, the counterman asked. "No, we're straight," said the future prez.

By The Reliable Source  |  January 10, 2009; 2:53 PM ET
Categories:  First Family  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Party Pooped Already? Pt. 2: Crisis at Purple Ball
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The caption on the home page uses the term "infamous" to describe Ben's Chili Bowl. Don't think that's what you were looking for. Landmark, famous, legendary. But infamous?

Posted by: matt29 | January 10, 2009 3:46 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for changing it!

Posted by: matt29 | January 10, 2009 3:49 PM | Report abuse

Okay, not an Obama maniac and not sure what type of President he'll be.

But I do have to admit I love his no nonsense attitude with the press.

There's "significance" to going to Ben's Chili Bowl? Who doesn't want to occasionally eat at Ben's?

Posted by: Chasmosaur1 | January 10, 2009 3:50 PM | Report abuse

"It means I'm going to get a hotdog." Love it.

Posted by: trace1 | January 10, 2009 3:52 PM | Report abuse

OhMyGawd! The President-Elect carries cash? Will he continue to after the Inauguration?

What a guy!

Posted by: RealCalGal | January 10, 2009 3:59 PM | Report abuse

BTW, WaPo, your reporters and editors should know to ad the NW, NE, etc. to any street in D.C.

Posted by: RealCalGal | January 10, 2009 4:00 PM | Report abuse

Pretty down to earth for a smart president to be. He doesn't have 'class' lines. In a few days he'll host a dinner for McCain and Powell so it looks like he's gracious too. I don't think there are too many people around who could snooker Obama.

Posted by: rrau22 | January 10, 2009 4:06 PM | Report abuse

A very real performance by a very real guy. However, each president shows such humanity and interest in the average citizen's experience early on. Bush 43 used to regularly visit the cafe in Crawford, TX and mingle with the locals, Clinton would go jogging downtown and stop in at a MacDonald's for coffee, etc. However, as the demands of the office and controversies grew in in administration, the president seems to get more and more isolated. I fear the same will happen with Obama, esp. if he makes mistakes and his popularity declines. Too bad if that happens. He seems to be someone who genuinely likes working class people and respects them. That was one of the only things that I liked about Sen. Joe Biden: he always had a few words for the Amtrak crews even if he was one of the most important senators in Congress (at least in his mind).

Posted by: hisroc | January 10, 2009 4:08 PM | Report abuse

Welcome to DC, Mr. Obama. I hope you don't get closed up in a bubble too soon and keep in touch with the real Washington. Glad the mayor started you off right.

Posted by: greyparrot | January 10, 2009 4:13 PM | Report abuse

Doesn't the NW go without saying when talking about U Street "CalGal"?? U Street is an institution in itself, therefore unless you're talking about U St NE or SE, you needn't mention the quadrant.

Anyway, way to go Obama! What a neat thing to do!

Posted by: Stevarino1 | January 10, 2009 4:16 PM | Report abuse

Welcome, Mr. President-elect! You and your family (especially Grandma Robinson) are welcome to the Capital and to the District. Enjoy your stay!

Posted by: meldupree | January 10, 2009 4:22 PM | Report abuse

A cool move by Mr Obama!I wish him the best in solving our economic problems.Many people are hurting and I fear the pain has just begun.May God bless Mr Obama and the USA

Posted by: jellyhouse56 | January 10, 2009 4:28 PM | Report abuse

I'm really excited that he's taking an active interest in the "real" DC and hope he is able to continue as he gets more involved in the running of the country. Yeay, Obama!

Posted by: Lizka | January 10, 2009 4:30 PM | Report abuse

When I first looked at the picture, I thought he was giving that lady a fist bump. How cool would that have been??? Ha! Oh well... love the half smoke and hope he did too. And meeting with Fenty huh? Voting right bill was brought back in the House... hello, this was a work meeting! :)

Posted by: lsac | January 10, 2009 4:40 PM | Report abuse

""No, we're straight," said the future prez."

In that neighborhood, it doesn't hurt to ask.

Posted by: Bitter_Bill | January 10, 2009 5:01 PM | Report abuse

Why did Obama reject Burris?

It makes Obama look stupid.

Posted by: Leftie | January 10, 2009 5:14 PM | Report abuse

Welcome to DC Mr. (soon to be) President. If you want really good DC food, skip the overpriced and overhyped Ben's Chili Bowl and head over to Horace and's open late for you to motorcade to after a long day, and it's very affordable. You can get all of the latest gossip in DC and pick up a few golf tips to boot.

Posted by: logan303 | January 10, 2009 5:27 PM | Report abuse

Oh, God, I miss half smokes. You can't get them in Boston.

Posted by: nicekid | January 10, 2009 8:05 PM | Report abuse

Hope you enjoyed chowing there!

Posted by: eabgarnet | January 10, 2009 8:32 PM | Report abuse

Hey RS, you need to get out more. Ben's is not fast food.

Posted by: dc_rez | January 10, 2009 8:36 PM | Report abuse

This would have been cooler if he wasn't with Fenty.

Posted by: mike8 | January 10, 2009 9:20 PM | Report abuse

Bill Cosby was on WTOP today- he was funny when they told him the sign changed- he said that was wrong, that the President to be had not earned free food yet! So Bill will be happy to know the Pres to be paid!

Posted by: AndrearKline | January 10, 2009 10:24 PM | Report abuse

Okay - what is a half smoke?

Posted by: jerzygrl | January 10, 2009 10:39 PM | Report abuse

it's a dc thing, you wouldn't understand.

Posted by: sullidav | January 10, 2009 11:37 PM | Report abuse

I didn't vote for the guy, but he is my president.
However this is one of the things, I like about him, down to earth.

I loved the hot dog comment, to the press.

Posted by: dashriprock | January 11, 2009 12:45 AM | Report abuse

A. I've had better half smokes.

B. The Mayor gets cheese fries? What happened to his marathon/triathlon/biking training>!>!

C. I'm going to make him pay for that extra food down at Hains Point . .

Posted by: delantero | January 11, 2009 1:39 AM | Report abuse

Oh God didn't we just go through 8 long years of Screw Up In Chief George W Bush doing endless damn fake photo op BS that
people got fed with totally?

So,now we even have George Bush Obama 44
copying the two Bush 41 and Bush 43 BS with
Bill Clinton Bush 42 Stops For a Big Mac
thrown in that are clearly meant to both distract us from our major economic disaster,out of control high unemployment,
illegal immigration and H 1 B Visa Workers
stealing our jobs that greedy white collar
crooks Bill Gates and Micro Soft haven't
already outsource to India,and two deadly
bloody and costly wars still raging in Iraq and Afghanistan while our "Mr TV Convertor Box President Elect" Barack Obama
stuffs his stinking face with hot dogs and
Obama pretends to just be one of us peons
BS here. Impeach Obama and Biden in 2009
and Throw Nancy Pelosi,Harry Reid and the
Do Nothing Democrats plus Mitch McConnell
and the remaining GOP Incumbents out as well. I bet Obama went photo op lunch to
Ben's Chili Bowl on our US taxpayer time and expense as well. Oh you know how hard
and exhausting running your big mouth about
such Vital Life Or Death Issues Like TV
Convertor Boxes must be for President Elect
Loser in Chief Little Bush 44 Barack Obama.

Posted by: Ralphinphnx | January 11, 2009 5:13 AM | Report abuse

What a phony photo op this hypocrit fake
Messiah Pathetic Excuse of a President Elect Barack Hussein Obama is,after he whines about American's eating habits Obama
goes to eat junk food at Ben's Chili Bowl,
when Iam sure that high price hotel the
Obama family is staying at must have a kitchen that can adequately prepare more
nutritional meals for Barack Hussein and
Michelle Obama and their two spoiled brats.

So,did Obama use Government Provided Limos
and his huge motorcade full of Secret Service Bodyguards to drive Obama there?
If so how about Madame Speaker go present
a bill for it to Obama and Impeach him for
Deliberate Misuse and Misapproriation of
US Government Property? Drain This Swamp
Nancy Pelosi.

Posted by: Amy2009 | January 11, 2009 6:56 AM | Report abuse

Amy's hero Bush has laid $10 trillion in debt on endless future generations of Americans, yet, expresses outrage over a trip to the chili dog store by our next President, and the costs associated therein.

What's wrong with this picture, folks?

Posted by: bleeboo | January 11, 2009 7:42 AM | Report abuse

You know.. in thee most troubling times WE
as a people have seen since the real modern
day depression. And there are yet some who still cannot open their hearts and minds to the fact that their guy McCain lost in this election. And clearly their complete
dis-taste and hatred spills out in every
sentence and word that they speak.

Case in point the 2 so-called Americans
above RALPHINPHNX & AMY2009...
Nothing that this man does or should I say Not one thing has he done that's put this Country in the position that it's in today.
and yet as we approach the day of which he begins his Presidency there is this sense in thee air & a new refreshed mind-set that change is indeed coming to America.
Obviously people all through-out this land
are rejoicing, and happily looking very
forward to a brand new leadership & hopes
for life changing events to take place,
and yet there are those such as the 2folks
above who choose to make this a forum for
their hatred.
My advise to those who share thee opinions
of people like those above...
RALPHINPHNX & AMY2009, before you get out here and begin spreading your garbage and attempting to change peoples perceptions about your views...
do yourselves a favor, grab any mirror that you may find... look very very deep into that mirror.. then ask yourself what the heck can YOU do to bring change or
help to bring change to this Country that
you so-call love.
Otherwise, get off your soap box and shut
the hell up.

And to My/Our President... Mr OBAMA,
the very road you will walk is absolutely difficult, your task is oh so tough, your job is hard, but Sir may the good Lord Bless you and guide you as you begin your journey, and may he always be there for you.


Posted by: crunch14mealldaylong | January 11, 2009 8:04 AM | Report abuse

Too cooool.

What a welcome change from the current Idiot-In-Hiding.

Posted by: thesuperclasssux | January 11, 2009 8:16 AM | Report abuse

To Jerzygrl--
I don't know if the Post will allow a link to an archived City Paper article, but if it works, here's an article on half smokes:

Posted by: dc_rez | January 11, 2009 8:22 AM | Report abuse

WOW Hey Crunch are you the Head Obamabot
Goon Squad Brownshirt or Waffen SS Blackshirt with your vicious attack on two
other posters,who by the way,have a US Constitutional Right to Express Their Own
Ideas and Views,you thug now then. I bet
you would have really at home in Nazi Germany before WW2 as an Adolf Hitler Gestapo Agent or SS Man you loser.

And,just so you and others will know that
Iam an Independent Voter not a kool aid
drinking Obamabot Democrat Thug like Crunch
and definitely not a Bush/Cheney Republican

However I do fully agree with both Amy2009
and Ralphinphnx as Barack Hussein Obama must still think he is still in the campaign mode,by doing his stupid "Obama eats a Hotdog" or "Obama Bowls" Or "Obama
goes to the Bathroom" and now the Great
Obama Tv Convertor Box Matter,Endless fancy
Hawaiian Vacations and acting like a typical rich kid spoiled brat playing golf,
shooting loops,and working out his wimpy 98lb weakling body at the gym. So does this
all look familiar? It should as it Obama
Campaign 2008 re dux as well as George W
Bush43 Cloned. Yep time to Impeach Obama
and Biden whether Crunch likes it or not.

Posted by: Jan1977 | January 11, 2009 8:31 AM | Report abuse

dc_rez -
Thank you so much. Read and enjoyed the article and now I want one! Living in Colorado, I'm not sure where I could find one, but if I did, it would probably be buffalo or elk. I do miss East Coast food!

Posted by: jerzygrl | January 11, 2009 8:37 AM | Report abuse

Be careful Obama ... I heard Ben dips his teabag in the chili at night

Posted by: OhTheHumanity | January 11, 2009 8:57 AM | Report abuse

Amy you sound HOT! Intelligent, too.

Posted by: mike8 | January 11, 2009 9:53 AM | Report abuse

Oh Good God when in the Hell if ever will
that Goof Off Pathetic Impersonation of a
President Elect Barack Hussein Obama stop
his stupid campaign mode and get his damn
stinking butt to work on finding solutions
for our real problems or admit he is too
damn dumb to do so and Resign as President
before January 20th 2009?

Iam so damn fed up with "Obama Eats Hot Dogs" or "Obama Shoots A Basketball" and
"Obama Works Out At The Gym' damn Fluff
Story Nonsense from WAPO and the rest of our lazy worthless print and tv newsmedia.
After all this same crapola they did at first for George W Bush and repeated all the while during Obama's 2008 Presidential
Campaign damn sure helped get the US into
the mess we are in here today. Stop The
Damn Fluff Stuff WAPO or just like the Chicago Tribune,Seattle PI,San Francisco
Chronicle and LA Times you Obama PR Rag
will go under with them Fearful Fred Hiatt.

Finally yes I agree Crunch would sure make
a great World War 2 Nazi SS Trooper or a
Good Gestapo Agent by the way he/she attacks other commenters here. And I too,
Will gladly support Impeachment of Obama
and Biden and throw Nancy Pelosi and Harry
Ried in for good measure. Iam not a damn
Obamabot Democrat or Bush Butt Kisser,if
any one has to know just another fed up
good American Independent Voter myself.
Thumbs Down On Fluff Stories,Obama,Biden,
Pelosi,Reid and Republican Chinless Mitch
McConnell as well.Throw them to the Lions.

Posted by: sandy5274 | January 11, 2009 10:02 AM | Report abuse

How many times you gonna change your screen ID and post the same junk, Ralph/Amy/Jan/Sandy? Hard to believe you're an "independent voter" with all the rants you post, using the President-Elect's middle name "Hussein" as a pejorative or invective.

Oh sorry -- that's probably two words you don't understand. They mean "insult". Sorta like your posts here -- an insult to intelligent readers.

Instead of hurling your republican talking points around, why not read and understand the article for what it's meant for -- a glimpse into the new President settling into the city he'll be living in for at least the next four years. I, for one, would love to see him at a Caps game or a Nats game, eating at Tony Cheng's in Chinatown, or any of the other great things that make this city a vibrant place to live, work and play. The more good press we get like this, the better.

Posted by: gr8day4bsbll | January 11, 2009 10:17 AM | Report abuse

I can't help it.

Obama is so cooool!

You gotta love it!

Posted by: dyend | January 11, 2009 10:36 AM | Report abuse

Well.... Isn't this special
Here in this forum where I guess we ALL are
allowed to make are comments, whether they be positive or negative.
I find that my being critical of 2 others
has brought out the truly ignorant base of
this Country, whether they're Republican
Or Independent thee failure of them to even critize this"lame duck"of a so-called
President name BUSH who has Raped this Country and put America... not Germany or
any other State in such dire straights as
we're witnessing here is apalling.
I am and continue to be a minority born &
raised here, been here all my life who has
watched this Country side downhill for the last 8 years and as it slid where were your voices then ?
Now somebody comes in and tries to do a little better and you Commy Bastards want
to attack him... & then me.
Sure it's America and I guess we all have the freedom of speech to protect us.
But put the frick'n blame where it should be. To bad your not going to be having your cake & eating it too.
You've had that for some time...
in your lilly Rosy Suburbs.

And thee comment of me as a Nazi germany SS
socialite... come on people get a grip!
yeah,right.. like the SS was going to have a bunch of Brothers in their support group.
Wake Up People it's 2009 enjoy it!

Posted by: crunch14mealldaylong | January 11, 2009 11:47 AM | Report abuse

Okay so how many of you here still remember
all the flak and Hell George W Bush got for
his endless photo ops and running around all over Hell making speeches even after
Bush was elected President or how Bush also
hogs the tv like Barack Obama is doing as
well now days? So tell me did we vote in
either Bush44 in Obama44 or is it Clinton 2
with Obama 44 and we damn well cannot afford either one,so yes Impeachment is the
only real remedy here as well.

Posted by: Kim12785 | January 11, 2009 12:08 PM | Report abuse

God how many more phony photo ops nonsense
like Barack Obama goes to eat hotdogs at
Ben's Chili Bowl are the village idiots in
our msm and WAPO going to do yet here?

As this country started getting into deep
trouble when WAPO and the rest of our phony
so-called newsmedia became as someone else
here called them little more then mere lowly White House Copyboys,instead of doing
their jobs and serving as the only real
watchdogs over Government we the American
people have,and stop doing endless totally
mindless fluff pieces and serving as both
George W Bush 43 and now Barack Obama 44
Official PR Machines. Obama is turned out
to be another Bush only with a darker shade
of skintone. And let me add this that some
of these freaked out Obama Cult Members
are only happy when they can attack like
Hitlers SS and Gestapo Thugs anyone who dares question Obama or make delusional
claims anyone doing so is insane or the same person,and they demonstrate their own
sheer ignorance of the fact many Internet
E-mail providers now require use of both
names and number ids of their account holders for security purposes. God talk
about unwarranted attacks these Obamanuts
are as bad as the Soviet Russian Goon Squads and Hitler's Nazi Thugs.

Posted by: Patty21478 | January 11, 2009 1:09 PM | Report abuse

LOL...I love those who find so much to rant about President Elect Obama. You can always tell which ones are Neo-con Christians who think that their way of thinking is the only one and which ones are racist.

The ones who use Hussein are the Neo-cons hoping that you will crap a brick out of's what Bush's entire career was based on.

The racists, call him the those here in Arkansas. I love it. I no longer have to worry about which uneducated, holier than thou idiots I have to avoid in the lunch line.

Get over it. American's are happy that this articulate, diverse man will lead this country in the direction we have been wanting. You all had 8 years and the only ones taken care of in that time were his oil, mortgage and fiance friends.

Obama is for the working man who actually lives in reality. Not in that land of fear and bible verses.

Posted by: ag1976 | January 11, 2009 2:08 PM | Report abuse

AG1976, Beautifully said...
and the fact that you mentioned everything
with such great Articulation & Grace
actually should send some of these freaky
"Bushieains" back into the hole from which
they crawled out of.
Yes, it is simply a great day to laugh and
smile... because their days of having their
cake and eating it too is... OVER.

I'd just like to take this opportunity to
LOL one more time... & this one's for the

Posted by: crunch14mealldaylong | January 11, 2009 2:39 PM | Report abuse

And so,while speaking as a Registered Independent Voter,myself,let me first say
that I cannot ever stop laughing at how all
these phony know it all Liberals and all the ill tempered Obamabots Cult assume anyone that even dares question Obama and
his actions or BS therefore has to be a
Republican, or Insane,Or Unpatriotic, etc
in the psychotic criminally insane attack mode. It does make one wonder if indeed Barack Hussein Obama is Der Leader Adolf
Hitler Cloned by the way Obama uses his
Obamabot Stormtroopers to cyberbully anyone
that dares question Obama and who refuses to get down on their knees and kiss Obama
boots and butt. Yep you betcha God Save
The USA from Barack Obama and Joe Biden and
all these psychotic Obamabot Cult Member

Posted by: Darleen09 | January 11, 2009 7:36 PM | Report abuse

Whew - talk about psychotic! Actually very funny!

Posted by: jerzygrl | January 11, 2009 7:53 PM | Report abuse

Oh what a big hypocrit Mr Physical Fitness
the Workout King Barack Hussein Obama is,
after Obama demands we all eat healthy or
be beheaded or whatever,and so here is Obama eating junk food at Ben's Chili Bowl
no less. Hey Nancy Pelosi come drain your
Obama Swamp.

Posted by: SherryKay2004 | January 11, 2009 8:58 PM | Report abuse

Well...... howdy again all you President-
Elect OBAMA haters.

I wanted to come back on here one more time
and express just how funny you haters really sound. it is very strange but true
that when certain people are attacked or
defeated... their rage normally pushes them to the edge by defending their own
positions, or beating down whom ever made
their uneasiness surface.

So what... OBAMA has turned these voices
into calling him by his middle name, but
in a demeaning and belittling way. so what
as it actually hurts them more than it bothers him... so what scream... scream
out his name louder if it will make YOU all
feel good. and you'll even take to that next step by calling anybody who voted for
OBAMA a Nazi thug, which again is cool.
do whatever you have to do if it's going to make you feel better.
But thee bottom line is... all of us supporters are going to be laughing in your faces for sometime to come just
because you sound like idiots.

And some of you faceless honey's... by
attacking a guy for going to get a hot dog for lunch is really going over the edge
don't you think! the man is in very good
shape and if he chooses to eat whatever
isn't that up to him. I'll bet some of you faceless women aren't in half as good a shape as that man. But yet you're talk'n crap. maybe it's because you'd like to be
biting into that hot dog yourselves.

Everybody take a chill pill and have a good laugh. it's 2009

Posted by: crunch14mealldaylong | January 11, 2009 9:40 PM | Report abuse

I was there and sat a few feet away. I didn't vote for him but he is our President. I told him I didn't vote for him but I am praying for him. Along with any other views you have that should be the 1st priority. Enough said.

Posted by: CNJG | January 12, 2009 8:14 AM | Report abuse

A mayor, the president-elect and his press pool walk into a restaurant. The two elected officials get a bite to eat. A story about the jaunt appears in the paper. "What does this mean?'' a reporter asks. "It means that I'm getting something to eat,'' the soon-to-be prez says. That's the only punch line for those of you who have a problem with this man stopping in to get a hot dog. The sun will still rise, tomorrow, people. Find a real cause to whine about. The line for a backbone forms behind Bush 43, McCain, Palin and Joe da Plumber. Get in it and wait yer turn! As for me, I can't wait to visit D.C. this summer. I plan to dine at Ben's, too!

Posted by: born2win | January 14, 2009 2:17 PM | Report abuse

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