next-door-and-bensEarlier this year, Ben’s Chili Bowl celebrated its 50th anniversary – a truly remarkable milestone and a tough act to follow by any measure.  But the Alis are ready to try. 

Brothers Nizam and Kamal, the sons of Ben and Virginia Ali, have been working on a second act for the past two years.  They purchased the adjacent building at 1211 U Street “to ensure the longevity of the Bowl,” allowing them to control what went in next door.  As it turns out, they’ve got a pretty good idea of just what that will be – a bar and restaurant to complement and expand on Ben’s Chili Bowl without compromising the original.

next-door-from-the-frontWorking with their wives, a cousin and a nephew, Nizam and Kamal are in the process of putting the finishing touches on Next Door – a name that pays tribute to Ben’s without forcing the connection.  If you’re expecting an updated version of the Bowl, you’re in for a surprise.  With a 53-foot bar (at one point this spot boasted the longest bar in the city), warm tones on the walls and nine flat-screen TVs throughout the space, this is no Ben’s Redux. 

I had a chance to sit down with Nizam Ali just before the Thanksgiving holiday, and he gave us plenty to look forward to as we await Next Door’s opening some time this month.  Pictures, plans and some Anthony Bourdain gossip after the jump. (more…)

While peering into the papered-over windows of Matchbox’s forthcoming second location on Barracks Row, I noticed large signs in the windows of Jordan’s 8, the upscale steak-and-sushi restaurant located next door at 523 8th Street, SE.  Intrigued, I walked over to check them out and got a shock.

The sign, posted by the Office of Tax and Revenue, indicates that Jordan’s 8 has had its Certificate of Registration suspended, efffective today.  As I write this, one city vehicle and two patrol cars sit outside the restaurant.

Although I don’t know what caused the suspension at this point, a pair of employees who were walking out indicated that they have been told to show up for work at the usual time tomorrow, suggesting that the problem is temporary and likely to be addressed in short order.  If this suspension has anything to do with the suit brought by Jeffrey Cappolla (also owner of the now-closed Tapatinis on Barracks Row) against partner Amber Lynn Koger, however, it could last quite a while longer.

In the suit, Cappolla alleges that Koger’s capital contributions were financed using funds embezzled from condominium and homeowners associations throughout northern Virginia.  For more on the suit, check out this Washington Post write-up.

And keep watching Barracks Row for more developments – I suspect we’re going to hear quite a bit more about this one before it gets resolved.

Photo by Ben Schumin, courtesy of Wikimedia

Photo by Ben Schumin, courtesy of Wikimedia

If the half-smoke is Washington’s defining dish, as everyone from the Post Magazine to the Washington City Paper has said time and time again, then Ben’s Chili Bowl is Webster’s dictionary.

Whether you’re a famous celebrity chef or a famous Travel Channel – ummm – traveler, Ben’s is a must.  And considering that Ben’s has been a witness to the past half-century of Washington’s history, is that really a surprise?

This Friday, August 22nd, marks Ben’s Chili Bowl’s fiftieth anniversary, and this icon is throwing open the doors to celebrate with the Washington community in a big way – with an Anniversary Gala Thursday night at the Lincoln Theatre, a Block Party, and an all-day concert at the 9:30 Club.

More about the events, a commemorative book that has just been released, and a few thoughts about the best way to enjoy Ben’s (no, it’s not drunk – though that’s not bad, either) after the jump.

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This was going to be a quick post just wishing everyone a happy Independence Day with a promise to report on any food served at the White House’s Fourth of July fireworks viewing party, but a visit to Cafe Atlantico yesterday turned up some news that seems to have gone unreported thus far and I just have to share.

At the conclusion of tonight’s second seating at Minibar, Chef Katsuya Fukushima will be leaving the kitchen at Atlantico to take on a new executive position within ThinkFoodGroup.  Although he indicated that he will technically still be the Executive Chef behind Minibar and Atlantico, he will no longer be as hands-on as he has been since starting at Atlantico in 2002.

As anyone who has eaten at Minibar can tell you, Fukushima’s inspirations and influence are felt throughout the tasting menu – his bio on the website specifically credits him with the creation of the renowned foie gras cotton candy as well as the ravioli they create from thin strips of jicama, mango and pineapple.

We wish Chef Fukushima all the best in his new role across the range of ThinkFoodGroup’s projects, and we hope that he will continue to have a significant impact on the creative cuisine coming out of Cafe Atlantico and Minibar.

For some people, the news that Brennan Proctor and his family would be closing their hot sauce emporium, located on 7th Street, SE, at Eastern Market, is a sad shock.  But those who know some of what Uncle Brutha’s has been through over the past two years see it as another sign that the neighborhood is still a long way from recovering in the aftermath of last year’s market fire.  And, more importantly, they see it as an opportunity for Uncle Brutha’s to focus on what they do best – make and sell delicious, locally-produced hot sauces. (more…)