Two brilliant ‘must do’ restaurants in Washington DC, both completely different in style and cost but both totally memorable and iconic.
Ben’s Chili Bowl has been open since 1958. It’s hot, spicy bowls of chilli are hugely popular with loyal locals. Famous faces have visited over the years including Barack Obama among many others.
Fiola is the most elegant and luxurious of culinary experiences. Located between the White House and the Capitol, Fiola is a destination for politicos, diplomats, and those with an appreciation for sophisticated food and ambiance.
Out side Ben’s Chili Bowl we could see, to our delight that the 50’s restaurant has hardly changed.
No fuss, nor fancy here. We don’t want it, that’s not what you come here for.
Famous faces beam out from the walls.
It’s nice to read the history of this cool eatery. Especially nice to see a picture of the couple, Ben and Virginia, who opened it.
People come and go. All races, all backgrounds, manual workers and suits all brought together by their love of Ben’s Chili Bowl.
Quite wonderfully the counter, booths and stools are all original.
Andy ordered a pot of their famous chilli con carne still freshly handmade to the original secret recipe.
I went for the vegetarian chilli poured over fries with lashings of cheese (the type you only get here in America).
A soggy pile of potato loveliness. There’s no way you’re not salivating right now!
Andy loved his chilli and gobbled it all up.
Fully fuelled and ready for more exploring around DC, we grabbed a chocolate milkshake ‘to go’. If you get to eat here pleeease try one of these. It’s super thick, tastes more like an ice-cream and takes a bit of serious sucking.
The flavour was fantastic and it was hard to share.
We were really glad we went a little out our way. It was a very cool experience, eating with locals in an American icon.
Ben’s Chili Bowl
1213 U Street
That evening entering Fiola, we were met with a whole world of sophistication.
Sitting at the table trying not to giggle because I loved the plates and the heavy, hallmarked cutlery so much.
Oh, and the chairs are so beautiful. Everything reflects the gorgeous lighting that hangs seductively above us.
The stunning bar is at the entrance (just behind the black panelling), but we were ready to eat so went straight to the table.
The pristine kitchen is seen through these little windows. Copper pans gleam above the heads of the chefs.
These are wonderful tables for larger groups.
I ordered a Stolichnaya Vodka infused with Strawberries, Green Apple, Mint, Club Soda and Lemon.
Hubby ordered a perfectly chilled bottle of Russian River Chardonnay.
The service was slick, as you’d expect, but not at all stuffy. We were delighted that Mo, our flamboyant waiter was loud and cracked jokes. He bent over backwards to please us and never missed a beat.
All that and he poured the wine with style.
The refined menu is super flexible. Just pick how many dishes you fancy, then pick anything you like, from anywhere on the menu.
A little amuse-bouche from the chef.
Andy and I look at each other and grin, even before we tried it!
The bread was fantastic too. We decided we could probably eat a loaf and had to encourage each other to stick at one portion, so we had room for all our courses.
Maine Scallop Carpaccio and Asparagus from the Antipasti menu.
A delight to eat.
Nova Scotia Lobster Bisque also from the Antipasti menu.
A must – it’s absolutely incredible! Truly one you’ll never forget. Stuff films are made of.
Andy’s Ossobuco Tortellini and Prosciutto di Parma was served at the table. Another perfectly flavoursome dish.
Pappardelle Lamb Ragu with Duck Egg from the Pasta and Risotto menu – oh boy, so good! We found ourselves closing our eyes a lot during that evening. Sitting back with our arms flying up at a first taste was also a common occurrence.
That rich duck egg is such a wonderful addition. This dinner is one indulgence after another.
At this stage we were feeling full. What we hadn’t taken on board is the American portions. Everywhere in this exciting city the portions are very generous. Fiola’s dishes are rich too (wonderfully so), that next time (oh, here’s wishing) I’d order 2 dishes plus dessert. Maybe 3 if I was starving.
For our 3rd course it was my turn to enjoy a Lobster dish. My heart does another leap of joy.
Fiola Nova Scotia Lobster Ravioli from the Classics menu. You know when you are so full, but the food is so darn good you can’t leave it uneaten…
Whilst eating my mind kept leaping from ‘so soft…oh, the flavour…where can I get plates like this from…’
We sat back and breathed for a while letting the food go down a little as we watched the smartly dressed waiters chat cheerfully to all the tables, enthusiastically spending time answering any questions.
One lady ordered less courses than her partner. Mo lavished on her a plate of beautiful morsels for her to nibble on while her husband ate.
Hubby went for this Lightly Grilled Branzino, Oysters and Caviar from the Sea and Land Menu. (Branzino turns out to be a European Seabass)
He was very impressed. Lots of amazed eye rolls and slow head shaking.
We’ve got to our 4th course and we are full. A huge portion of rich Wagyu A5 Beef Ribeye was placed with flourish in front of Andy.
A dream dish for him, but after a few bites he sadly looked at me and announced ‘I’m beat’. Head in hands he was mortified (he is a bit of a drama queen). The dish tasted delicious and he smelled it sadly shaking his head in near despair. I giggled.
This Halibut, White Asparagus and Morels dish had an amazingly deeply flavoured sauce – very special. Sadly I was too full to finish it off too!
Luckily Hubby had ordered Pistachio Soufflé for dessert which gave us a bit more time.
It wasn’t actually on the menu this season but we had spotted it on their web sight. This was no problem and with their usual charming enthusiasm 20 minutes later it arrived looking proud.
Placed in a ‘ta da’ manner on the table some gelato was shoved with much Italian flair into it’s centre.
A sweet pistachio sauce was also offered but wasn’t really needed. Hubby ate every bit announcing in a surprised voice ‘It’s so light, I ate it all!’.
My dessert however wasn’t light exactly, but I wouldn’t have changed it for the world.
Azelia Chocolate and Cherry Blossom. In cred ible! I’m a chocolate lover (just check out my recipe page for proof of that!) but this is a crowd pleaser.
Feeling totally indulged we left very happy. More diners were enjoying a meal outside protected from the cool early spring evening by the heaters and lit by the theatrical trees.
Go here for a special occasion, because Fiola will live up to it.
601 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20004
Enter at 678 Indiana Ave.
We knew we have had a culinary day to remember. Two ‘must do’ restaurants in Washington DC. Both restaurants are completely different in cost and style, and memorable in very different ways. I feel like I’m one very lucky foodie!