Ben’s Chili Bowl serves up half smoke to French leader

March 30, 2010

French President Nicolas Sarkozy may come from one of the world’s culinary capitals, but it seems whenever he comes to America more simple fare awaits him – hot dogs or sausages. USA

In 2007 when Sarkozy visited President George W. Bush at the family estate in Kennebunkport, Maine, he was offered a lunch of hamburgers and hot dogs as the leaders tried to improve relations strained by the Iraq war.

Three years later he comes to Washington and where does he stop before going to the White House? Ben’s Chili Bowl.

The casual restaurant which serves hot dogs, sausages, and chili, has been around for more than 50 years and seen its share of  history along the way. Customers have included Martin Luther King Jr., Bill Cosby, Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald.

Sarkozy apparently had one of Ben’s famous half-smokes – a pork and beef smoked sausage — for lunch, that’s about as American as you can get without the apple pie.

Obama couldn’t resist mentioning it at the start of a joint news conference at the White House later in the day.

FRANCE-USA/“I have to point out that the French are properly famous for their cuisine, and so the fact that Nicolas went to Ben’s Chili Bowl for lunch … shows his discriminating palate,” Obama said.

“My understanding is he had a half smoke.  So he was sampling the local wares, and we appreciate that very much.”

Sarkozy joked that Obama had revealed a secret about where he ate lunch, but said the restaurant was recommended by a good friend.

“When I walked in, I saw a huge photograph of President Obama,” Sarkozy said to laughter, “and I’m afraid that, when you go back to that restaurant, you may see a smaller photograph of the French president.”

We’re told by an inside source (OK so it was the first French person I could find) that hot dogs are eaten and enjoyed in France, although on French bread…

Photo credit: Reuters/stringer (hot dogs and half smokes on grill at Ben’sChili Bowl),  Reuters/Benjamin Myers (Sarkozy waves at Ben’s Chili Bowl), Reuters/Jason Reed (Obama and Sarkozy laugh during joint news conference)

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