I recently spent some time in the Washington, DC area. While I saw way more national chain stores then I’m used to seeing in Portland, there where three great local places that I wanted to highlight to anyone traveling or living there. One is a coffee shop and the two others restaurants.

Java Shack

Located at 2507 N Franklin Rd (near the intersection of Wilson and Barton in the Courthouse/Clarendon neighborhood) is a great coffee shop serving organic coffee from Lexington Coffee. The staff was friendly, the coffee hot and the wi-fi fast. One thing that I really liked was that they had a rotating single origin coffee along with a high quality house blend and a french roast that wasn’t as robust as I would have hoped. Next time I am in the area, I will definitely be returning.

Ray’s Hell Burger

Talk about one hell of a burger. Located just down the road from the java shack at 1713 Wilson Blvd, this has already jumped up into being on of my favorite burgers. They start with a patty of high quality meat that’s perfectly cooked unless you are actually looking for shoe leather. My girlfriend had mostly good things to say about the shoe leather version. Next up is a wide selection of cheeses such as Vermont White Cheddar, Dutch Mustard Seed Gouda, and Rogue Creamery Smokey Blue. You are then able to add a few extra charge toppings like Bacon, Foie Gras, and Ham. They also have an extremely large choice of free toppings including three types of Pickles, some of the best sautaedded mushrooms I’ve ever had and sautéed peppers. It was so good, I went twice.

The first time I had mine with Vermont white cheddar, sautéed mushrooms, grilled onions, sautéed peppers, and dill pickle chips. It was perfectly cooked with a warm red center and a great bun that held together even with how juicy the burger and toppings were. And boy were they juicy. I can’t say enough great things about the mushrooms. I almost want to see if I can just order a bun loaded with those mushrooms and some cheese.

On my second visit I switched the cheese to Pepper Jack and added bacon and roasted garlic to my burger. While it was amazing, I think next time I’m there I’ll cut down on the toppings to not overpower the burger. I tried both the regular fries and the sweet potato fries. My recommendation, skip the regular fries, and go straight for the sweet.

I couldn’t find a website for them, but you can take a look at a scan of the menu at Beans, Rice, & Life.  Also, bring cash, they don’t take cards.

Ben’s Chilli Bowl

The Chilli Half Smoke is by far the best Chili dog I’ve had in my life. There is no doubt about it. I can’t say that enough times. Best. Chilli. Dog. Ever. The chilli has a good kick, but yet isn’t so strong that it overpowers. The dogs come with chips and the fries are mostly lifeless.

It’s located right across the street from the U street metro station at 1213 U ST, NW. They also have vegan options, so even if you’re a herbivore, you can eat here.  Bring cash, they don’t take cards and the only people who eat for free are Bill Cosby, Malia Obama, Sasha Obama, and Michelle Obama.

Let me know if you try or have been to any of these places. I’d love to hear some others thoughts.