Eating out in Washington, D.C.: The U Street Corridor

Ben's Chili Bowl in Washington, D.C.
Ben's Chili Bowl in Washington, D.C.

[Flickr/Steve Snodgrass]

The U Street Corridor, the center of Washington's African-American nightlife for much of the 20th century, has experienced a recent revival and is once more a hip place for those looking to escape the typical Georgetown and Adams Morgan nightlife scenes. In addition to shops, clubs and galleries, however, the U Street Corridor is also home to the finest of two regional specialties: the half-smoke sausage and Ethiopian cuisine. Here are three great restaurants to visit for a true taste of D.C. flavor:

Ben’s Chili Bowl - Co-founded in 1958 by the late Ben Ali (a native of Trinidad) and his wife Virginia, this local landmark is believed to serve the best chili half-smokes that D.C. has to offer. The restaurant counts celebrities such as Bill Cosby and Chris Tucker among its regulars, and recently enjoyed a visit from then President-elect Barack Obama. First-timers should try their signature dish, the “Bill Cosby’s Original Chili Half-Smoke”. 1213 U Street, NW

Dukem - Some refer to the area of U Street east of 13th Street and in the 1900 block of 9th Street as “Little Ethiopia”, due to the presence of 10 Ethiopian restaurants within three blocks. Dukem counts among one of the best, and though the waitstaff speaks very little English, the native Ethiopian customers are happy to offer recommendations. The signature dish is kitfo, a mound of raw ground beef blended with house-made cottage cheese, herbed butter and hot red pepper. Vegetarians and vegans will find plenty to choose from, however, and all are welcome! 1114-1118 U Street, NW

Etete - Ethiopian cuisine is not served with utensils. Instead, your food (spicy stews, seasoned vegetables and pureed legumes) comes served atop a spongy flatbread called injera, with extra bread on the side for additional scooping. The meal is considered complete only once the underlying bread has all been eaten. Although not as famous as Dukem, Etete is known for its tasty food and friendly atmosphere, and has consistently been rated as one of D.C.’s top Ethiopian restaurants. 1942 9th Street, NW

The U Street Corridor is a quick and easy subway ride from the Hampton Inn and Hotel Monaco Washington, DC.

- Susan Holmes

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