Hot Dog! Where to Celebrate Being an American in DC

Half-Smokes cooking at Ben’s Chili Bowl. Photo by Paul Ferrari.

Fireworks, baseball, pool parties, beer and flags. These are all things you will typically experience at a 4th of July celebration. But the most important aspect of this holiday (or any holiday, for that matter!) to consider is what you will eat. Because our Founding Fathers fought so hard to obtain and preserve our freedom, let’s honor them by enjoying one of the most patriotic items on the menu: the classic American hot dog. Here is a list of the best hot dogs, sausages, and half-smokes in the DC area:

DC’s Iconic Half-Smoke

Half-smoke at Ben’s Chili Bowl. Photo by Paul Ferrari

Established in 1958, Ben’s Chili Bowl, (1213 U St., NW) unlike some of us has survived more than just the heat wave and derecho in DC. In 1968, the assassination of Dr. King lit a fuse of rage. Riots ensued. Most of the city closed down; Ben’s remained open.  It’s one of the few places in DC that are truly unique to the District. Ben’s Chili Bowl and their signature Chili Half-Smoke, originally made famous by Ben’s in 1958 and a favorite of Mr. Cosby’s since the early 60’s, can be found no where else in the world. Ben’s creates their specialty with 1/4lb. half pork and beef smoked sausage on a warm steamed bun and top it with mustard, onions and their spicy homemade chili sauce.  I love the crisp skin of the half smoke, but all you really can taste is the chili. The chili cheese fries are also a guilty pleasure for many Logan Circle residents. For $5.70, it’s a small piece of DC’s history, but well worth the visit. Be sure to snap a photo of yourself outside as a souvenir.  Destination location: U Street

At the market:

Red Apron Butchery (multiple locations) will fulfill all your holiday grilling needs and without breaking your bank. Chef Nate Anda takes his meats seriously and has been recognized by USA Today and The Washington Post for his charcuterie, baby burgers, and housemade bacon. If you plan to celebrate the 4th over the weekend, go here to order from a selection of dogs, sausages, spreads and sliced meats. Offering classic dogs, chorizo dogs, baconwurst, cheddar dogs, atomic dogs and mortadella dogs, Red Apron has no shortage of variety. You can pick up your pork at one of their market stops in DC or VA. Go here to determine which location is most convenient for you.

Take me out to the ballgame:

Nothing screams patriotism louder than baseball, hot dogs and fireworks. So if you plan to watch the Nats beat the Giants this 4th of July, be sure to stop by Box Frites (Nationals Stadium) on the Miller Lite Scoreboard Walk. It’s savory, trendy and an excellent addition to the Nat’s stadium. Must try: Pairing a fresh beef dog with smoke bacon aioli, bacon bits and cheese with the garlic-parmesan frites. Simply mouth-watering! Destination location: Navy Yard Metro Stop

Other specialty spots in the District:

Wanting a little sophistication in your hot dog? Then head to PS7 (777 I St NW) in for House Made Petit Hot Dogs with traditional accompaniments and house made chips. For less than $12 you’ll get three generous pieces to share with friends. For the tried and true, pair your dogs with a 21st Amendment Saison brewed in San Francisco and available on draft. Destination location: Gallery Place Chinatown Metro Stop

Masa14′s Kobe Beef Hot dog. Photo by Paul Ferrari

Masa 14 (1825 14th St., NW) located in Logan Circle has a sexy “urban oasis” rooftop bar complete with it’s own kitchen and menu.  The new rooftop holds nearly 200 people, and has become  a hot spot for summertime. To nosh, you’ll love their “the Rising Sun”, a delicious plump teriyaki-glazed American Kobe beef hot dog with their spin on relish with spicy wasabi, furikake, and tangy chopped pickle. It’s to die for!  Destination location: U Street

If you’re already on the Hill this Wednesday, head to DC-3, a vintage hot dog joint. Named after The Douglas Commercial 3, “The Plane That Changed the World,” DC-3 is a visit back to our nation’s glory days when times were simpler. So fly back in time and try a hand-dipped corn dog or mix things up with the Maine Red Snapper on a butter-grilled Frankfurt loaf topped with Kayem Red-Hot, homemade white sauce, onion relish and celery salt. Destination location: Eastern Market Metro Stop

This may be America, but no place has better sausages than Biergartenhaus (1355 H Street NE). For just $10, you can nosh on a wurst, traditional potato cakes and sauerkraut. The Biergarten has an excellent selection of on draft bier to pair with your meal, including Hefe-Weizen, Lager and Pilsner. They also offer a non-alcohol bier called “Bittburger Drive,” that is earthy and slightly hoppy for the kiddos. You’ll definitely be saying danke schön on your way out the door! Destination location: Union Station (closest metro)

For you NOVA folks:

Five Guys (107 N. Fayette Street, Alexandria, VA) lets you create your meal exactly the way you want it. Established in 1986, Jerry and Janie Murrell opened up its first location in Arlington, VA, and after perfecting their burger business continued to open franchises throughout VA, MD and the rest of the country. And you can really taste the difference. They only use fresh ground beef and peanut oil, and nothing is ever frozen. Must try: bacon cheese hot dog with Cajun style fries. Destination location: King St. Metro Stop

And Bethesda dwellers:

At Bold Bite Dogs and Fries (4901 Fairmont Ave, Bethesda, MD) you can experience happy hour hot dog style! Every Monday through Friday from 2:30 to 5:30pm Bold Bite offers different specials, including free fries and free naked dogs. On Fridays, you can enjoy $2 drafts with homemade chips and house sauces. Bold bites is all about showing your taste buds something new, so be sure to try the Hot and Bold or Cilantro Lime sauce. They are out of this world! Destination location: Bethesda Metro Stop

God Bless America!

Ashley Morris, Lisa Shapiro, and Paul Ferrari contributed to this post.


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