We are such adult Bitches. We got up early, sober, on a cold Saturday morning, and met with our new CPA. We had our files in order, our questions ready. We are adults, adults with a small business; Let’s do this.
After way too much number crunching, our heads hurt, and we needed brunch. We wanted to quickly swing by Taylor Gourmet to try their new breakfast sandwiches. But we arrived past 11, and were told they stop serving them at 11. The horror. We tweeted angrily.
We waddled around the corner to Ben’s Next Door, and plopped ourselves at a high top by the bar, still miffed about Taylor, but accepting their tweet apologies. We set to work on Ben’s brunch menu.
Ben’s is classic D.C. brunch. It’s on the level of Crème and Busboys & Poets just a block away—the sort of D.C. institutions that have defined what the capitol city’s brunching is. And being joined at the hip to D.C.’s best-known food institution, Ben’s Chili Bowl, only helps its cause.
The first, and only time, Cori Sue had been to Ben’s Chili Bowl was when Becca dragged her there at 2 a.m. following a rowdy evening on U Street. As a vegetarian and hater of all things processed, she was appalled by the cuisine being served. Walking into Ben’s Next Door is an entirely different experience from its late-night diner next door.
With it’s dark wood floors, low lighting, long sleek marble bar and leather and mahogany stools, the entry way of Ben’s Next Door is impressively chic yet simple. A well-dressed handsome man, who smelled incredibly nice (and we told him so), greeted us cheerfully as we walked in the door, leading us to a high-top table.
Like the ambiance and cuisine at Ben’s Next Door, the cocktails were simple yet satisfying. The $9 Bloody Mary was light, spicy, and horseradish-y. Like many Bloody Marys it was topped with a lemon, lime, and three green olives. Cori Sue appreciated that the glass was rimmed with salt and seasoning—but that they gave her a straw so she didn’t get it all over her face.
The mimosas are made with fresh-squeezed orange juice. It’s $8 a glass, or you can go bottomless for $16. They are orange-juice heavy, but quite large—served in big wine glasses.
The shrimp and grits are the best we’ve ever had throughout our Southern travels. The grits were indescribably rich and comforting, with yummy shrimp, topped with diced marinated tomatoes, onions, scallions and Parmesan cheese. Most importantly, the broth was rich and flavorful. Cori Sue has had shrimp and grits with little-to-no flavor (in North Carolina, no less), but this was not the case at Ben’s.
Becca had the fried chicken and waffles. It’s the chef’s own brined fried chicken, and there was plenty of it. The waffle was cut into quarters and was surprisingly delicious. Belgian waffles can often be flavorless and boring, but this one was buttery and rich. The chicken had a spiced kick, and the entire dish was the perfect portion size.
We shared the salmon cakes, made with organic white cheese, and with scrambled eggs, grits and tomato-onion sauce on the side. The fried cakes fell apart on your fork, and tasted fresh, not fishy or salty. But, of course, it was those amazing grits that made the dish. Those grits would make any dish amazing.
The brunch menu also offers French toast and “Your” Next Door omelet, made to order. Or you can do Ben’s omelet, made with half-smoke sausage, chili, and cheese, in a nod to its next-door neighbor. If you’re carnivorous, you can even get wings or filet mignon and eggs.
We’re dreaming of Ben’s right now. Thank you, Ben, for rekindling our love of the classic D.C. brunch.
The Bitches say: A. A great, classic brunch spot with stellar grits and other great comfort food. The mimosas could be improved.
Ben’s Next Door
1211 U Street Northwest
Washington, DC 20009