Judging Restaurants – Ben’s Next Door


Now that the insanity of inauguration is over, I think it’s time for a proper assessment of Ben’s Next Door. I’ll go on the record as saying it is fantastic, both as a bar and a restaurant. They even serve the super cold Heineken drafts (which I think is mostly psychological but I dig the frozen taps). As far as the restaurant is concerned I’ve had a terrific fried chicken entree. You can see all the entrees here. Of course they also serve the classic fare that you can get at the original Ben’s. I refuse to write the address of Ben’s next door, you know where it is! So now that that lines have died down a bit, what do you think of Ben’s Next Door? Notice they painted the building as well. Looking good!

Ed. Note: Ben’s Next Door is located at 1211 U Street, NW. Damn…

25 Comment

  • Too expensive, food was mediocre at best, and the service was downright terrible. Will not go again.

  • Same as Spring (although I did try it twice). Service was horrible, food was fine, walked out with a much larger bill than I would have liked.

    I do, however, really like what they have done to it. I love the long bar. It is one of those places that I really want to like, it just didn’t do it for me.

  • Only had a halfsmoke there two months ago, but Purple Haze and D.T. on tap for 7 bucks was worth it. Staff was very nice and apologized for not having their menu up and running yet.

  • Very expensive. $6 for a domestic draft is steep.

  • As to the restaurant portion, I was disappointed with the food and the bill (they should rachet it down a notch). I really like the bar though and come back to sit at that gorgeous long bar. Decent beer list too. Just wish they had better wings and ordinary bar food to eat while sitting there.

  • The girl and I went, had a grand total of two half-smokes and two beers. Nearly $30. Nuts to that.

    And it took them over 15 minutes to get our beers (after we ordered), and over 30 to get our half-smokes, which were right there behind the bar. That’s why we only had a beer each.

  • No thanks to high prices and high pretense.

  • PaschTag

    I had the Fried Chicken, it was great. But for $17 I only got ONE piece. That’s offensive. I mean, gimme a drum stick or something. C’mon!

  • No on the restaurant. Big Yes to the bar. Restaurant is overpriced for what you get, but the bar is great. One, it’s a great space. Two, all of the servers and bartenders are super nice. Three, the prices for the higher-end beers is pretty reasonable. Four, I can eat a half-smoke with a beer – and that’s really how it’s meant to be done.

    I agree with U. Drop the fancy stuff and supplement your original Ben’s fare with top notch bar food (i.e. wings).

  • I’m surprised at the negative reviews. I went with 2 other people a few weeks ago and it was fantastic. The fancy mac & cheese appetizer was ridiculously good, as was the fried tomato slices (lightly breaded, with a bit of cheese, and what looked like a balsamic vinagrette drizzle….oh my mouth waters just thinking of it). Other people had a duck stew type thing (I wasn’t there when he ordered), and the fried chicken, all of which was delicious. A bit pricey, yes, but we thought it was worth the quality of the food.

    Service was great – the food was a bit slow to come out of the kitchen, but the wait staff was excellent. The manager also popped over to chat with us for a second and was really friendly.

    I liked the crowd – it’s a nice place, people were dressed appropriately. No drunken college kids.

  • Sorry, but Toooo expensive and the entre selection too narrow (only 5?!?). What’s up with desserts for almost double figures? I’d also like to see a vegetarian entree.

    On the other hand, it ‘s great to see the building rehabed after staying vacant for so long.

    If the prices came down about 20%, I thinkI’d be able to give it a try.

  • I love this place, it brings a much needed upscale bar to U street.

    As far as service goes, I think every new establishment goes through growing pains. It seems they are trying to find a balance between fine dining and cafe service. Let them gain their feet for a couple of months, then try it again!

    Oh, Must try the Vanilla Sweet Potatoes! Not to be missed


  • I love this place, sad others feel the food was mediocre. I think the food is solid, brunch was great, service needs some work, but they know it. Yeah, it’s a little on the pricey side for entrees at dinner, but I was happy eating the appetizers and the sides.

    I don’t know if this is a “go out to dinner” kind of place, but more of a stop in, get a drink, get some food, enjoy yourself kind of place. The brunch has a LOT of potential once they work the service kinks out.

  • Much-needed upscale bar? No offense, but I thought there are plenty of upscale bars on U Street. I agree it is a great addition, pricey or not.

  • I think there are plenty of upscale bars on U street as well. In fact, its getting dangerously close to being overrun with them (I can’t wait to see what Paddy Boom Boom or whatever charges for drinks and mediocre fish and chips or whatever food they’re going to sling out).

  • I went about a month ago and had a fantastic meal and really great service. Had the aforementioned tomato appetizer, bottle of white wine, I think my friend had the crab cake, and I had the salmon, which was OUT OF SIGHT. Seriously. I almost never choose to eat salmon (unless it’s in sushi), but I’d heard it was amazing, and now I crave it. The most delicious crispy crust, unbelievable. And Rock came out at the end of the meal for a little chat. Very, very nice night out. But no, not inexpensive.

  • Great place to go and be able to enjoy Ben’s Chili but still be able to drink!

    Brendon the head bar tender was really great to us when we went it, and was sharing great suggestions for drinks. I think this place should be tried by all. They are very friendly and the inside was nice and not too crazy!

  • good food, but the prices are outlandish. $17 for a piece of fried chicken??? $8 for a slice of cake?

  • Miller Lite: $6
    Half-smoke: $7


  • $12 for a hot dog and a beer. There really is enormous potential for further retail development on U Street.

  • Ah..Even more, $13 for a beer and hot dog. What a deal!

  • For the record, you can enjoy a beer and a ben’s at National’s Park.

  • I stopped in for a drink, hoping to eat at the bar. Unfortunately the full menu is not available at the bar – and once I took a look at the menu I decided the prices did seem a bit steep for what it was. That said, I thought the bar atmosphere was fantastic. Everyone was friendly and I struck up several conversations with the bartender and other patrons. Plus, Mr. Ali was there an introduced himself to and had a little chat with everyone in the place – and when I saw him a few days later, he recognized me and said he hoped I’d be back for another drink soon!

    Bottom line – go for the great neighborhood atmosphere, not necessarily the food!

  • I was just there this weekend for the first time and got a table at the bar. The service was fine, but I was not impressed. The prices for drinks are upscale, so that wasn’t a surprise, but I really expected more out of the bar food. The wings were mediocre, the ribs were very tender but lacked any flavor from the dry rub, and the mac and cheese was fine. I am glad I checked it out, and will possibly go for drinks, but I won’t order food again.

  • As a Hell’s Kitchen fan, I came across an article about Chef Rock Harper moving to DC to start up ‘Next Door,’ and just had to try it. I called in to make reservations, but realized I didn’t really need to (it was 8PM Sunday night, and the dining area in the back was empty); I figured it’d be busy being the evening of a holiday (Easter).

    We arrived and were told it would take 5 minutes before we could be seated; disappointing after realizing the empty dining area in the back. The menu, as several of you know, is limited, but I’m sure every item is a specialty. After reading positive reviews about the chicken, I ordered the fried chicken and the side of mac and cheese. The bread served prior to dinner was cold. The fried chicken was juicy, hot, and small-portioned. The “perfect” mashed potatoes were good and had a hint of vanilla. I presume the greens included were taro leaves, typically seen in Hawaiian kalua park lau lau dishes and served hot. The leaves on the fried chicken dish were cold – first time I’ve tried it cold, so I don’t know if this was intentional. The mac and cheese probably underwent one of the most attentive preparations you’ll ever see, as it should be for $8; it was good.

    For the price, I felt this experience was disappointing overall. Good food, but nothing to return for. In addition to our table in the back dining area, the only other occupied table was Chef Rock Harper himself with two of (presumably) his guests. He didn’t even address our table when passing right by; not that I expect him to, but being the only diners back there, it was disappointing. We made the mistake of bringing a friend to try this place for dinner on her birthday (staff forgot about it, by the way – they mentioned they would make a little dessert with a candle); should have tried something familiar and time-tested…like the usual half-smoke and chili cheese fries I always get from Ben’s.

    I can’t recommend this place to friends; I’d much rather spend my money elsewhere for bigger, fulfilling portions (I would’ve been happy just spending $15 to get stuffed with Boston Market chicken & sides).

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