D.C. diner adds Obama to list of famous patrons
WASHINGTON – President-elect Barack Obama made an impromptu foray into his new hometown on Saturday with a visit to D.C. landmark Ben’s Chili Bowl and threw health-consciousness to the wind: a chili half-smoke, and don’t hold the shredded cheese.
“Where the food at?” Obama asked the staff as he walked through the restaurant accompanied by Washington Mayor Adrian Fenty, shaking hands and posing for pictures.
The neighborhood diner in the city’s U Street district has served up food to the likes of Bill Cosby, Ella Fitzgerald and Martin Luther King, Jr. since it opened its doors in 1958.
As Obama made his way to the counter, he asked Ben’s staff, “How much does a half-smoke cost?”
One server responded, “You didn’t see the sign? Obama eats for free,” he said, referring to a sign that said only Bill Cosby and the Obama family could eat free at Ben’s.
Obama laughed and handed server Jermaine Jefferson a $20 bill, which he proudly showcased, as Obama told him to “keep the change.”
Sonya Ali, an owner of Ben’s and wife of Kamal Ali, whose parents started the business, told Reuters they had an inclination that Obama would eventually stop by, but they had no idea it would be today.
“We were very humble and happy,” she said. “He’s such a warm man and very personable and approachable. We were honored to have him here.”
As the Washington mayor enjoyed some cheese fries, Obama munched on a chili half-smoke — the diner’s signature dish — a quarter pound half pork and beef smoked sausage on a steamed bun.
Obama, who is known for being health conscious and works out almost daily, could have opted for a less calorie-intensive meal as the diner offers a list of “healthy choices” on its menu. But he instead chose to get the full Ben’s experience by digging into Bill Cosby’s favorite dish.
“It was terrific,” Obama said as he left the restaurant.
For more Reuters political news, click here.
Photo credit: Reuters/Jim Young (Obama visits a D.C. icon, Ben’s Chili Bowl on Saturday, Jan. 10)