who-eats-free-at-bens<<Update 2:53 – The Washington Post’s Reliable Source is now reporting on Obama’s visit, as well.  They’ve got some additional details and a photo.  Check it out.>>

Sharp-eyed patrons at Ben’s Chili Bowl may have noticed a change to the “Who Eats Free at Ben’s” sign during the election season, when Nizam Ali and his family added “The Obama Family” to the sign that had previously only named Bill Cosby.  But when I sat down with Nizam to take a first look at Next Door, he admitted that the family had not yet paid a visit to Ben’s.

Today President-elect Obama put the sign to the test, showing up for lunch with Mayor Adrian Fenty and surprising everyone at the counter.  They sat at table five in the main dining room, for those who may want to check for crumbs that Barack Obama himself may have touched!

According to Nizam, Obama ordered a chili half-smoke with mustard and onions and a sweet tea.  When he received his order, he asked for (and received) shredded cheese.

And although the staff was quick to point to the sign and offer Obama the free meal they promised, he insisted on doing his part to help stimulate the local economy.  He paid with a $20 bill that the Alis are planning to frame and hang in Ben’s.  Obama was also generous with his time, stepping behind the counter to pose for pictures with staff and generally showing the kind of love for a DC institution that we hope is a sign of good things to come for Washington under the new administration.